Storytelling too can challenge the power forces of society

Can you tell what is the principle of Pythagoras theorem? Most probably not. But can you tell the story of the thirsty crow? Of course you can. There lies the significance of oral storytelling.

-Priyanka Chandani

Once upon a time…” Can one ever tire of hearing that phrase, resonant with the promise of immersion in some magical and endlessly fascinating world? We love stories. We all do. We have grown up listening to stories – by our dadis, nanis and mothers, with an occasional contribution from our fathers. Stories are all around us; stories make our world; stories guide our lives; stories form our fundamental core.

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We all are walking-talking stories and when we meet new people, they become part of our story. In short, stories help us understand ourselves, the other, and life itself.

Michael Burns the mind behind ‘Tall Tales’ city’s premier storytelling organization has spoken to Absolute India about the concept of storytelling as an art form and its acceptance among the people. “Mumbai is full of stories. Everyone on Earth has at least one great story and so that means 18 million people here in Mumbai do too.” says Michael. “Most people don’t realize this fact and believe that a story has to have over the top drama or explosions or something massive to happen. Yes, stories do involve important moments of change, but subtle stories that zoom in on heartfelt slices of real life are incredibly powerful. We don’t fully realize this sometimes.” he explains.

Tall Tales started out as just one night of storytelling in 2013 where people from the public sent in true personal stories and the best ones were picked. However Michael was keep on receiving entries which led the organization to complete 63 shows wherein 218 stories are performed out of 1500 entries. “I think what we do at Tall Tales is different in a few important ways. We don’t organize an open mic though there’s nothing wrong with open mics, but we believe that practicing, rehearsing, editing, and trial and error make performances better, and I think the quality of our shows demonstrates that to be true.” The other thing is that we only feature true stories since we are fuelled by the idea that nothing is more fascinating than real life, and so this is the main motivating factor for featuring only non-fiction personal stories.” Burns adds.

When asked about the potentials in the storytelling industry he simply said “I don’t know. But I do know that many industries are trafficking in stories as Storytelling is all around us all the time, it’s just you have to ask yourself what kind of stories are being told.” Michael argues on the high profile stories offered to society stating people’s personal life distresses “I personally find the overwhelming majority of them offensive and thoroughly vacuous. I’m far more interested in the non-market stories that remind us of how precious and fleeting life is while teaching us how we can better take care of each other.” Michael likes Amitav Ghosh and Kiran Nagarkar as the amazing storytellers.

absSpeaking about the scope and the significance of storytelling Burns said that “it is wide, it’s just that for the most part, we’re being force-fed quite awful and empty stories.” “Learning to tell your story is probably one of the most life-affirming things you can do. Telling your story is a way of acknowledging your own existence and about connecting to others around you as well as those who came before you.” Storytelling is our species’ superpower and so we are now starting to get into the term “destiny.” He adds. What can make someone a story teller? “I personally believe that it is every human being’s destiny to tell stories and therefore it’s one of the prerequisites to a life worth living. We are born storytellers, We are not made but we can become better at it by studying it and by understanding the universal story structure not because those technical ideas make your stories more appealing or more publishable (though they also do that) but because once you know why certain stories push certain buttons for audiences you unlock your own potential to craft original stories that have never been told before.”

According to Michael the future of storytelling is practically very bright as he predicts that “We will always tell stories, we have to tell stories about responsibility to our planet and each other to the new generation and they will follow the same.” “It takes real courage to tell these stories because to do so you have to confront the horrific racist and nationalist stories that we consume consciously or subconsciously every day also the powerful forces in society have a lot to lose if we start telling stories about connection rather than division then they will not relinquish power quietly.” He concluded decidedly.

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