Let me tell you a story...

Stories Worth Sharing Meet-Ups encourage us to narrate our inspirational, life-changing stories

September 13, 2017 03:22 pm | Updated 03:22 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

A participant of the SWS meet-up in Delhi with her postcard

A participant of the SWS meet-up in Delhi with her postcard

When 24-year-old Rohit Jacob heard about a story worth sharing, he decided to organise a story-telling session for his city, Thiruvananthapuram.

Rohit got to hear about a session of Stories Worth Sharing (SWS) Meet-Up in Pune, which was organised by his friend Gargi Dharmadhikari. “SWS is a platform where strangers come together and relate an incident or story close to their hearts, the first such meet-up being held in Delhi after its founders, engineering students Himanshu Poswal and Mohit Munjal, felt a need for personal interaction among people in an age largely dominated by social media,” explains Rohit. Started in March this year, SWS now has a presence in 23 Indian cities and is set to be hosted in Singapore, the first meet abroad, soon. Rohit, an engineer, is organising Thiruvananthapuram’s first such gathering.

Himanshu Poswal and Mohit Munjal are the founders of SWS

Himanshu Poswal and Mohit Munjal are the founders of SWS

He feels the meet-up could not have been better timed. “I always considered this city where I grew up to be a place where people shared close bonds with their family and friends. I found the news of a student’s suicide, apparently because he got trapped in a Blue Whale challenge, deeply disturbing. Loneliness can lead to such extreme steps and often a platform like SWS can provide a sense of belonging. The stories shared may help change lives,” he says. Rohit himself has no dearth of stories after quitting his full time job in Bangalore at the peak of his career last year to travel across India over four months, eventually meeting Gargi on the way.

Rohit Jacob is organising the SWS session in Thiruvananthapuram

Rohit Jacob is organising the SWS session in Thiruvananthapuram

The sessions are publicised using a Facebook page where people can register for free by filling up a form. One of the only quirky questions includes mentioning, in one word, what the participants like best about themselves. The word becomes part of a postcard souvenir made by the organisers for each participant to take home after the event. A few days ahead of the meet-up, a group is created on WhatsApp with all the participants. “It serves as an ice-breaker. If speakers have any inhibitions, the group will help them get acquainted with each other, even find friends who might have registered,” Rohit says. The meet-ups are recorded and uploaded on YouTube.

Those who want their stories to remain within the walls of the venue are requested to inform the organisers beforehand. Age, he says, is no bar; neither is language.

Childhood friends Himanshu and Mohit use their own stories as introductions and fillers at meet-ups. Himanshu, speaking on phone from Delhi, says that though the first two gatherings required some work to gather story-tellers, the rest sprang up on a momentum of its own as participants or those who had seen videos of the event online got in touch asking if it could be held in their own cities.

The two 21-year-old engineering students have a story about SWS too. “We were on holiday in Varanasi, playing a game of chess by one of the ghats near the Ganges after the evening aarti. That is when we saw a group of European tourists catching up on their day. Only, they had their phones kept facing down. This got us thinking of the importance of personal interactions without interruptions of phones or social media,” Himanshu recalls.

Postcards that were distributed at a session of a SWS gathering

Postcards that were distributed at a session of a SWS gathering

The stories from the sessions Himanshu holds closest to his heart reflect immense strength on the part of the speakers. “Topics have ranged from success stories at exams, someone’s first solo trip, to issues like sexual assault. The support from the listeners gives people the confidence to open up. One lady spoke about the importance of allowing oneself to feel pain as she was told to bottle up her grief after her father passed away. One of our friends, a quiet chap, chose to listen at two meet-ups before travelling to a meet-up in Jaipur and speaking about the incident that caused him to become silent at social gatherings.”

SWS is diversifying: the first all-woman meet-up will be held in Surat this weekend while a theme-based session, such as ‘My First Time’, is coming soon in Delhi. Himanshu sums it up when he says, “If TedX is a platform for achievers, SWS is for the common man with a story – and everyone has a story.”

The rules

Any number of people can attend a session

Only 15 speakers in a meet-up

Each speaker gets five minutes and an extra minute to wind up

A gap of three to four months is maintained between meet-ups in the same city

The event in the city will be at The Cinnamon Route, Kuravankonam on September 24 from 4 pm to 7pm. Contact Rohit: 9567901428

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