Once upon a time...

An age-old delight...story telling

An age-old delight...story telling  

Storytelling in India is a well-entrenched art. This is not just because of a formidable repertoire of stories from oral and regional traditions but also due to the varied and innovative forms employed for their dissemination ranging from plays to puppets to dance. All this and more was the focus of the National Seminar on Storytelling organised in New Delhi earlier this month by the Association of Writers and Illustrators for Children (AWIC), the Indian section of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). The idea was to draw attention to the pivotal role of storytelling as a means for promoting children's books and the art of reading in the world of today.

The relevance of storytelling in the educational scenario as well as in the daily context was stressed by speakers like Feisal Alkazi, the distinguished theatre personality who delivered the keynote address, Paro Anand, a noted writer and storyteller, Madhu Pant, director of Bal Bhawan, and Jagmohan, Minister for Tourism and Culture, who inaugurated the seminar. Storytelling through picture books and through new dimensions like the electronic media was discussed. The role of parents and grandparents in acquainting children with traditional lore and also the ability of books to bridge cultural and other barriers were some other aspects raised.

The highlight of the two-day seminar was the performing arts display scheduled for the afternoon session. This was attended not just by writers, teachers and librarians but also by enthusiastic children from various schools. It was a delight to watch them respond to the professional storytellers and to view their own confident rendition of stories, poems and songs interspersed with regular performances. Of particular interest was the recital of Subhadra Kumari Chauhan's famous poem Jhansi ki Rani by a bright-eyed student of Amar Jyoti Research and Rehabilitation Centre.

The actual sessions were staged by a variety of performers ranging from Anurupa Roy's Katkatha to Moloyshree Hashmi's narrations. Several animation films were shown by Nitin Donde to demonstrate the potential of this art in storytelling. The National School of Drama staged a compelling play, "The Gift", while a traditional Chaupal Katha Vachak scene and a puppet show were other highlights. The use of dance forms like Kathak to narrate stories was described by noted dancer, Navina Jafa, whose graceful movements told the story of the love of Radha for Krishna.

Alka Shankar, Parbati Podder and Ashish Ghosh were some of the other stalwarts in the field of storytelling who performed in these sessions.

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