Of stories and life-Can we pause to listen and share?
I recently attended a friend's storytelling session. She, like many others in recent times, tells stories for a profession. It was marvelling to note how she mixed elements (such as auditory, sensory, and visual) and mediums (like music, dance, and drama) to keep the audience enthralled and involved.
As a culture that used to imparting knowledge through stories, we are aware of Harikatha, kathakalakshepam, and villu paatu. The main idea was to spread general awareness or get a specific message across to the mass through song and dance. The beauty of this art form is in how versatile it is. You could explore esoteric subjects like the Upanishads or stir a change on socially relevant issues. It is heartening to see the ancient form still alive in this digital era, or rather, being reinvented with a modern-day twist to rope in the present generation.
Storytelling isn't about simply about the stories. It is a journey of finding the origins of new cultures, understanding the people behind the customs, discovering languages, opening oneself to a different way of thinking, accepting an opposing point of view, and allowing yourself to blend and evolve. When I asked my friend how she keeps up her passion, she said that when one receives so much more in return, it is easy to walk the path.
Storytelling sessions might be gaining traction for all the right reasons, but even a skilled narrator cannot do much if the audience is not receptive. Narrating a story is an art, yes. And yet, do we say the same thing about listening? In today's times, where everything is fast and instant, listening has taken a back seat. Growing up, I remember listening to the same story over and over without getting bored. Today, children have access to a multitude of gadgets that can play and stop at will. Repetition is boring. Waiting is punishing. Curiosity is diminishing. Even as adults, we struggle with a diminished attention span.
While I pondered how storytelling is a two-way street, I had an epiphany. Aren't we all storytellers in our own right? We are unique individuals with different takes on life's situations. Even if we were to have a similar canvas, we would perceive it through varied lenses, lending different colours and viewpoints to the same canvas.
We trade stories of our daily strife, ecstasies, disappointments, successes, and failures. We expect to be understood, applauded, encouraged and reassured. When that doesn't happen, we feel let down. Empathy requires one to walk a little in the other person's shoes. Too often, we are preoccupied with our thoughts and feelings and fail to do so. Who has the time (or inclination) to listen to another point of view? Especially when the other person's opinion does not match ours.
And yet, we are all characters in the mega book called life. We all have a backstory, and none can claim to know the other person's story entirely. We are here to form new connections and, at times, let go of old ones as our collective stories unfold. Much like the professional storytellers of today, we need to develop an openness to learn about newer perspectives. Give some to receive some. We may not be ready for some stories, and that's okay too. The underlining point is to remain curious and willing, either as narrator or listener. Do you agree?
A society that cares for its senior citizens is a civilized and enlightened society. The aging happens on its own without any prompting from our side! It is an issue of mind over matter…if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!
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