SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Uthara is my daughter, age-7 1/2!
Who Is The Greatest?
In a big house in the Dining Table there was a cup of Tea, Coffe,Milk. the coffe and the tea were discusing Who was greatest. "I am the gratest because I am the latest drink" said the coffe.
"I was there even befor british came also". But cup of milk kept quiet.
Then a boy came and drank the cup of milk!
The cup coffe was very sad, the cup of tea too.
But next secend the boy's mother and father came and drank the drinks.
the father drank the tea and the mother drank the coffe.
cups were so happy, they all said to each other now on words we both are best of friends.
the moral of the story is Everybody is the same.
(based on an idea given by her father!)
Once in a village there lived a man who was carrying a Heavy bag. Another man came passing by him. he felt sorry to him, so He said "shall I help you?" The other man said "Ok".
Then you have to give me something said the other man. but the man told "i'll give you NOTHING".
the man kept the log on the place
and said " Now give that nothing"
the other man said "Nothing is Nothing you can't have it".
But then the two people started to fight. At last they decided to go to the head of the village.
The head asked "What is the problem?" The men told the whole story. And the head thought -this man is mad He wants nothing!
the head said- you there come here now, then tell me what is under the carpet?
the man said "nothing".
head said "then take that and go"
the man was disappointed,
the problem was solved!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Yep! I had a blast!
Today was the culmination of my efforts in storytelling for this term at my special school. Over the last 4 months, I've been doing one story with the special children in the Non-Formal educational group, every Thursday.( Non- formal implies that these children, who have cerebral palsy and other associated disabilities like mental retardation/sensory impairments, get training in a number of life skills, along with some functional literacy skills.)
Every week it was a challenge selecting a story for this group. The story had to be simple and realistic enough for them to relate to. Fantasy doesn't work, as it has no meaning, long plots also have no value.
Finally out of all the stories done, it was Varsha who decided that it would be the story of the Milkman's Cow. Varsha is a shy, reserved, non-verbal teenager, and when i started off with these sessions, she would be looking elsewhere, not interested, just not connecting.
Then I did Milkman's Cow, and Varsha just enjoyed herself thoroughly! She called me close to her and made me show her the pictures, looked at every character, making a specific action for each. Her class teacher was so excited at her involvement, that she was communicating so spontaneously with gestures that she drew out the entire story onto another book, and had Varsha tell the story. .
So when it came to selecting a story for the show, I wanted to do this as it was this story that had connected me with her.
Every one of the class children participated. As we assigned roles, some children demanded to do certain roles. The narrator was selected, the milkman, the cow, policeman, vegetable women, cobbler, ice cream man, peanut seller, muscle man, and finally a small boy who manages to make the cow get up from the middle of the road by offering it grass, where all the others fail! Simple, effective story.
We practiced it for 4 sessions and on the final day everyone of us got on stage, with costume and make up.
Some glitches were there, mike wires running everywhere, so wheelchairs could not move, some of the characters would not talk unless the mike was placed near their mouth! But the show got done, claps and appreciation were received. We all heaved a sigh of...relief!
The other part of the show was the LKG/UKG group, who did the story of Baby Jesus, followed by Santa and Jingle bells! I condensed the entire story of Nativity to 4 lines.
The children had just 4/5 simple lines to work with:
This is the story of Baby Jesus
I am Mary/I am Joseph
We go to Bethlehem.
We take Baby Jesus( from an angel!)
We are 3 kings(enter the kings),
We carry gifts to Baby Jesus
We carry toys, dresses, and Video games(!!!),(that last input by a child who insisted on it!)
Chaos reined, as one of the sheep( child in costume), refused to sit down and insisted on roaming around the stage and distracting all!
Very entertaining, but a tad tedious for our older audience, who found all the disturbances very.....disturbing!!
Anyway we had a great time putting it together, so what if the end was not as effective! This was the first time for the kids, they did a great job....!
Nivedita played the fur elise by Beethoven. I was floored! She played it with such elan and panache. Who doesn't recognise that melody?
Such a confident young girl she has become, I cannot resist writing about her!
I've seen her 6/7 years back in 1st standard. Naughty, talkative, smart, and very people savvy, she was everyone's darling.
I am seeing her now, and I guess she must be about 15/16 years old...
She looks smart, and savvy, and plays the synthesizer like a pro! She is really an inspiration for me. I look at her parents, and admire them. What a fantastic job they have done, they have raised her so well inspite of all the odds.
You see Nivedita studies in a special school, and has Cerebral palsy. A condition which affects her mobility and coordination.
We need to make such children true champions of this world, give them awards, rewards and accolades. Talk about them every where, so that we can all learn to appreciate life!
Friday, December 12, 2008
They say a woman is the back bone of the family; she can make it or break it.
This lady was the matriarch of our family. Her kind and gentle demeanor was only a facade for an assertive and stubborn personality.
She laid the rules, the values, the religious rituals to be followed. All laid down by her dictum.
Don’t mistake me, she was not dictator, but I can call her a benevolent despot!!
She grew old, her roots firm and secure, enclosed in the protective fold of her son’s family she could now lead a retired life. Handing over all her responsibilities and her chores into the competent and capable hands of her daughter in law, albeit reluctantly, she immersed herself in piety and worship.
The first blow came when grandfather passed away.
The red dot on the forehead of a married woman is her proud declaration of “pativrata”, of her dedication and distinction.
It was taken away from her.
What she feared most in her life had happened. She was not to be given the gift of dying a “sumangali.” Her prayers had fallen on deaf ears.
She bore this too with her customary dignity. But her thoughts were tortured. Her mind would swirl with the unfairness of all that had happened. But the thought that no one can change vidhi (fate), was her only solace.
4 years passed this way, she was now confined to a room. Yearning for attention, she would call as we crossed the room. To give us small inane jobs, to keep us near her, to talk to us, she tried in many subtle and blatant ways.
We had no time for her.
Life was a roller coaster, a hundred new things to be done, a hundred different ideas to be explored. There was no time,… no time to sit and chat with an old lady.
We wanted to finish the job and quickly run from there. We could not understand her need, her loneliness.
Her greatest fear was that she would have to face death alone.
Her decline happened slowly. A year on the bed and a week in coma. She was sinking and we knew that. Knowing her fear for being alone, we tried to keep her company, took turns to stay with her, sat in her room, doing our work, or close enough to monitor her every move.
It just happened that we took a rare day off and decided to got out for the evening, leaving her, not alone, but with her college going grandson.
We don’t know when it happened. Which was the exact moment when her life passed, passed into eternity, but it happened that night, and not one of us were next to her.
My brother was there at the door step, tense and expectant. Quick phone calls were made to the doctor, as I made my way into the room and touched her. Cold and lifeless, she lay there on that bed.
I stroked her cheek, and all the love and affection, scolding and admonishments that she had heaped on us, flashed through my mind.
The end is innocuous, taking us silently or violently, but ultimately we will only remain as memories in the minds of those we leave behind. Whether those memories are sad or happy or angry depends solely on how we had chosen to lead our lives.
For this grand dame, death had finally released her from bondage. But she is not gone for ever, for we as her loved ones, carry a piece of her in us always, and we in turn will pass it on to our loved ones.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Guess what I did this week for my story session. Yes, you are absolutely right! I did "Little Monster". Arul's maiden venture into the world of magical story writing. It was simply a great hit!
The children from all 7 classes, just lapped it up like cream. They connected with all the characters and names, especially "Snewalot", from where the wicked witch comes, was one of their favorites.I just had the book with me this time, and drew the 3 main protagonists on some colored paper, just so that the kids could see it in a bigger frame.
Not one class would let me stop. If there were any interruptions then some other child would shush him/her up and say, "Please Aunty, continue!"
I stopped at chapter 9 drawing loud protests from all, and said "To be continued". "No aunty, don't stop, not fair", were all the words hurled at me. Sweet Pleasure!
Children showed a good grasp of vocabulary, they knew, "quest", "armor", "gargoyle" etc
I also learned that there were many in the class who wrote stories, poems. Children nowadays have great opportunities, they only need to utilize them well and channelize into the right path.
Arul is lucky to have a grandfather who converted his creativity into some thing so tangible and concrete. Not everyone has that chance.
I continue the story next week and I have promised the children that they can go through the printed book slowly.
What a win-win situation for me.I'm lucky to find work that I love to do!
Footnote: Arul is my 12 year old nephew. He wrote this book last year (2007), and it was published by his grandfather (my father!). So you can call it a full fledged Home Production!!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
So this is my second week with a story,for my weekly assignment at a school. I knew what I wanted to do. Something with Tangrams. The Tangram is a fun/educational idea developed in China. If you have children then you would have definitely come across this. It can keep children occupied for hours. It has 7 pieces having a definite shape. A square, parallelogram, and the rest triangles of different sizes. The whole point is to create figures with these shapes and it can be fascinating. So browsing through the net I found a nice story with Tangrams. Its about a grandfather telling his grand daughter a story with Tangrams, the main characters in this story are fox fairies!
So I made the Tangram pieces with paper, got them photocopied and stuck them onto A4 sheets. Now I wanted to display this. When I tell the story, I want the sheets to be displayed on the table (standing). So I went around looking for an easel or a stand. The stationary shop had what I wanted, but the cost was way beyond my budget for this.
I just let my eyes roam around the shop and voila I hit on what I wanted. A box file. The sheets went neatly into the file, and I could make it stand by bending it backward. So cheap and effective.
Monday morning is chaos but the adrenalin is worth it. Children had some idea about Tangrams, but had never seen it used in a story. They were fascinated. Some children from the 4th std especially were not impressed! Yet I could see that the children were taken in by the idea of using the Tangram for a story.
Now what happens is that the class teacher sits in the class, as the story session is going on , so I have not much difficulty managing the children. But when the class teacher is not there, the children just take me for a ride!
I love to make my sessions interactive, so I keep asking questions in between. In a classroom, I guess the children feel it is their space so the exchange will not subside easily, and I have to really work hard to bring their focus back to the story. Time being limited to 40minutes I have to really manage it well. I have to complete the story, get a feedback from them, and make them record the story in their books, along with an activity that I have planned.So that's a lot of "ands" that have to be fulfilled within a short time.
Regular classroom storytelling is fun, interesting and challenging.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Have you ever told the same story 7 times to 7 different groups of children? I have, and will have to every Monday for the next 3 to 4 months! I am filling in for a friend who wants a break from storytelling at a school near my place. She has been doing this for 4 years now!.Amazing.
So for my first story, I planned to do, Perseus from the Greek heroes myths. Story is great, right elements of heroism, monsters and magic so children should like it, and I was not wrong on that. I made simple drawings and in my signature style , converted them into stick puppets for use in the class. I made a good looking paper helmet of Invisibility, a Shield, and a pair of paper Sandals with wings to fly.
The children loved the props, and especially got a lot of compliments for my rendition of Perseus. "Awesome" was the word one kid used to describe my drawing of him! Who doesn't like accolade?! I just lapped it up and basked in it!
I threw in a bit of Geography, showed them where Greece was and then started the story. Std 4 was familiar with the story of Hercules and they had many questions to ask, lots of information to share. They knew that Athena was the Goddess of wisdom, etc
Thanks to Harry Potter, children could guess how Perseus cut the Medusa head. Comparing it to the Basilisk, one or two of them shared the mirror idea. Perseus sees the reflection of the Medusa on the polished mirror like shield and then beheads her. If she does see him he will be turned to stone.
So my journey with stories continues, now I have to find a new story every week. I just love it.
Check out my props.
Friday, November 21, 2008
I quite agree with her.
Ahimsa is non-violence in thought and action. In these times when there is such cut throat competition and violence you may think I'm anachronistic. Violence and aggression is an animal instinct. In fact the smile is a grimace of aggression that slowly evolved into this expression of recognition. I digress...Coming back to Ahimsa, I think we can learn from children. I remember my son was taking part in a running race during an event organized in our apartment. He had to run to a point, put on a T-shirt and then run back to the starting point. He was very much in the lead, and quickly wore his shirt and on completing it, had to see how his friend was faring, and found him struggling. My son immediately ran up to him and helped him wear the shirt, held his hand and came back to the start. He got a standing ovation, he was the real winner in all our eyes. He was just 3.
I 'm sure years of living will change him in due course of time....sad!
Himsa for me is even thoughts of negativity that we nurture in us, judgments we pass on people without considering the circumstances. Am I being too naive, I ask myself, but contempt and negativity breeds the same, while positive thought can create wonders and change even the most hopeless situation or person. I know.
The worse a person is treated the worse will he think and treat the world. Postive action and thought is Ahimsa. It is not about self sacrifice ( that Gandhi expostulated) but it is a postive attitude that we need to wear on our sleeves.
A simple idea that you and I can uphold in our daily lives. If we could only accept people as they are, understand the circumstances of their action and not judge them then we are truly on the path of Ahimsa.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I was approached to do a book review at the
Coming to the event, it was the launch of the company name and some select books at the Bangalore Book Festival. They (the directors) soon realised that verbal acquiescence is no guarantee that your request will be carried out. The Festival organisers had promised them a place to launch their company and their books. But on that day, feigned ignorance!! So, this found one of the directors running from pillar to post looking for a place to set up the books and paraphernalia. Finally, the aisle which led from the entrance to the inside was given, 2 rusty tables were set up, and torn (serious, not jesting!), so called, white piece of cloth was spread over the tables. A cordless mic was handed over to our people and we were on the roll!
The chief guest is quite famous in the blogging circles, and blogs on IT related issues. The event was delayed by just half an hour, not bad by our IST (Indian standard time!)
The books were duly released, and then I had to take over. Well till now I have not mentioned the fiasco that was the acoustic system. It absolutely refused to convey any sound to the audience present. It took on the job of throwing our voice outside the tent, of the book festival arena. This was due to the fact that the mic was connected to speakers placed outside, so this ensured that people who were sitting just 2 feet away could hear …nothing, but staccato words, static, see some arm flailing, and sheepish grins. In spite of knowing that our audience could hear next to nothing, all of us continued with our charade.
Unfortunately I had to inflict myself on the audience for the longest period, as I was not only to tell a story, but also was reviewing 4 books. God help me!! I desperately tried to get some responses from my audience, who were obviously clueless at times, wondering why I was pausing in between and staring at them expectantly. (Those were the points where I was trying to pose questions to my audience and interact with them!). Hilarious in retrospect. I gave up after some time, did a rush job on the review and closed up the discussion.I need to equip myself with a personal acoustic system; otherwise I will continue to face such noisome problems!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
What does a story do to us?
Does it unconsciously take us back in time, to childhood memories? Of grandmother telling us a story as she fed us, or maybe grandfather? An uncle, or an aunt. Mothers and fathers would not have donned that role, too busy, or following the golden rule that one does not "spoil and indulge" one's own children (the same rule would not apply to them when they become grandparents!!)
I had another chance to tell a story to a group of teachers. It is interesting that teachers can become students in a flash. Or put in another way, "once a teacher, always a student"!!
A very simple story about a boy and his teacher (obviously). The fact that we need to look at the others point of view, and not assume, nor go into a situation with our minds already made up.
As a teacher I have been guilty of this error many a times. Especially when you are pressed for time and want to finish your work, we just don't make the effort to understand the child's point of view.
My friend and I had been invited to Ashok Leyland School (Hosur) for a programme on Learning Disabilities. She the specialist and moi the storyteller!
I started the session with a story and set the ball rolling as the saying goes. Receptive audiences always inspire me.
The school was splendid , with great infrastructure, motivated teachers and a very dynamic Principal. Just a year since they have started, and what a way to go.
The students are mainly from the operator class workers, with 20% from outside.
The difficulty they face is getting professionals to come to them. They are also not able to access quality in terms of trained staff. So the next best option is to train their existing staff, and that's where we came into the picture. Glad to oblige.
It is sad that I am not seriously pursuing special education any more, and the irony to that is I have more people wanting me to help them in special ed. rather than storytelling now!
Anyway each to his own. I don't think I have to choose between the two, maybe both, will do for now!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
This Saturday at Easy Library my story was Pied Piper of Hamelin based on Robert Browning's poem. If you have read the poem, you will amaze at the imagery of the poet. Such play with words. A true master.
I love the part where he tells us that the rats poured out of the houses, he uses all theses rhyming words, rustling ,bustling , hustling...children enjoy such verbal play of words.
Then he says the children came pattering, chattering, clapping... again the children had no difficult understanding that there were small children running onto the streets.
I had a stripped scarf and hat for the piper, along with a flute, to complete the image of the Pied Piper. I had made a top hat for the Mayor. Origami 4 cups and painted whiskers and ears/ eyes to represent the rats. As the rats poured out onto the streets, I threw them on the children.
Here I found I had made a mistake, they started playing with the paper 4 cups. Luckily not for long, cos one child gave me the idea that as the rats had jumped into the river, she too made the rat "jump" by throwing the paper rat on the river, (which I had created with clothe on one side of the story stage). Then I told all the children to throw the paper rats into the river and so the story was saved (I could get their attention back!).
I love to tell this poem/story, there are so many details!
You too try it out!
Monday, September 29, 2008
Today( 30th Sept.) marks the beginning of 10 days of celebrations for Hindus in India called Dussera. It overlaps with the Muslim festivities and austerities in the same holy month, called Ramzan.
Every festival in India is associated with a story! That is the uniqueness of our collectivistic culture. Every festival is a reason for us to socialise, with neighbours with family and with friends. There is more, every region will have a different story to tell for the same festivities!! Some times the story remains the same but the embellishments will be unique to that area/region.
So also Dussehra/ Dussera ( pronounced as duh-seh-ra), also known as Navarathri (meaning 9 nights) has two stories associated with it.
In Northern India it is celebrated for the victory of the legendary king Rams' victory over the demon King of Lanka, Ravan (which is the story of Ramayan). In Southern India, the story associated is totally different. Here the 9 days marks the fight /battle between the Shakthi (female power) and the demon Mahishasur (buffalo-demon), and on the 10th day the demon is vanquished by the Shakthi.
Now the other unique aspect of this is that some Hindu families also display dolls ( just like the Japanese), made of mud and terracotta, wood and other materials. These dolls portray our gods, life around us, animals etc. Here too stories are depicted, usually taken from the Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Puranas.
Stories are an integral part of our lives, and this festival reiterates this aspect for me. I share these stories with my children and those who I invite into the house to see our dolls. Though I have lived with these stories all my life, only now as a storyteller I realise how our culture has chosen to weave them into the very thread of our lives!!
Here is the South Indian version of the Story of Dussehra
Name: Abu’s Navrathri and The Buffalo Demon
Text: Adapted from “Abu’s world again” by Gowri Ramnarayan.
Abu’s home looks wonderful. It is the 9day festival of Navrathri. The fragrance of fresh flowers, Incense and rose water all around…..
“Mmm” thought Abu “I love festivals, especially all that yummy food!”
Every one gathered around the Bomme Golu, that Abu and his sister Akila had helped arrange, (of course with a little help from Amma and Ajji (grandmother)!)
(They had dragged tables and stools to make 5 steps. Then Abu’s Ajji had placed the Kalasa, the auspicious pot filled with rice, a coconut and mango leaves at the centre.
“It is the new moon day, Amavasya today, ” said Ajji and from today for nine days we will celebrate the Navrathri festival, and the last or the tenth day is Vijaya Dasami, the day of Victory.”
Abu had been so excited as Amma had opened her old trunks and removed the dolls carefully kept there wrapped up neatly in newspaper and cloth.
One by one as Amma removed the dolls, Abu and Akila had placed them on the steps.
The Gods came first, Lakshmi, Durga, and Sarswathi. Ganesha, Karthikeya, Vishnu in his Dasavathara…so many dolls.
Big dolls, small dolls, old dolls, new dolls, dolls for all occasions, and “even my power rangers” said Abu. So Amma had made room for his toys too!)
That was 8 days ago, today was Saraswathi Pooja, the Goddess of Learning whose special day it was, and the whole family had gathered around the Golu.
Books, office files, are piled on the chowki on which Amma has drawn Rangoli patterns and decorated with flowers, kumkum and haldi.
Everyone closes their eyes and says the sloka, ‘Saraswathi Namasthubyam….’.
Then Amma gives everyone sweet payasam and crisp vada. Yumm! Abu has two helpings of each and is stuffed.
“Amma, tell me a story” said Abu as usual snuggling upto Amma.
Amma thought and then said, “Do you know the story of Navarathri?”
“Yes, Amma, My teacher told us that Lord Rama fought the ten faced Ravana for 9 days and on the tenth day he killed him and that’s why we celebrate Navarathri, the 9 nights festival, where good wins over evil” said Akila knowingly.
“Ahha, that’s is the story from North India”, said Ajji, here in South India we celebrate the same. The same ‘good over evil’ but with a different story, that of Mahishan the Buffalo Demon and the Devi Goddess.
“Why Ajji”, said Abu, slightly confused “Why different stories?”
“Let me start from the beginning”, said Amma
“Our great, great, grandfathers, wanted us to learn good things, do good things and be good people, so they had different stories through which to tell us that we must be brave and courageous, help others and learn good qualities. Rama, Lakshmi, Durga, Saraswathi and many other Gods were made for us to learn good things from them.
So just like Ajji tells you different stories and your teacher tells the story in a different way, North Indians believe in Lord Rama story and we from the South, in the story of the Devi, or Shakthi who is in 3 forms, Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswathi.”
During Navarathri, first 3 days we pray to Durga, next 3 to Lakshmi, and the last 3 to Saraswathi. The tenth day is to the Devi, who is all the above 3 put together. It is the day of Victory, where she defeats the Buffalo demon Mahishan.
Good wins over every thing bad, so if you start some thing good on that day you will do it well!”
“Amma please hurry up and tell me The Demon story,” said Abu
“Yes, This is the story of Mahishan, The Buffalo Demon, and The Devi Goddess.”
Sage Vyasa told this story to King Janamejaya:
In a time where there were Kings and Gods, Asuras and Demons. Ramba and Karamba were two Rakshasas, wicked brothers. They were praying to the sun god Surya, in order to get strong sons. Karamba was sitting inside the water and Ramba standing and praying, seeing this the jealous Lord Indra, the King of Devas came like a crocodile and killed Karamba. Unhappy Ramba wept for his brother, Surya came to him and granted his wish for a son with great powers.
As Ramba’s wife was a she-buffalo, their son was half Rakshasa and half buffalo.
They named him Mahishasuran.
He was extremely strong and powerful, and soon wanted to rule the 14 worlds. For this he needed some help, so he prayed to Brahma, the God of creation (who has 4 heads, seeing the 4 corners of the world.). Brahma was pleased with his prayers, and so asked Mahishan to ask for his heart’s wish.
“As I am already very strong and powerful my only wish is that I want to live forever,” said Mahishasuran.
“But I cannot give you this, as no one can live forever.” said Brahma
The clever Asura then asked that no Bird, Animal, Man, Demon or God should kill him.
(He got his wish,. but then he did not mention Women as he thought they were too weak to fight him.).
Now, Mahishasuran became very cruel, He troubled all the people; he even challenged Indra to fight.
Indra laughed, “I’m not frightened of a buffalo”, he said.
Then taking the blessings from Guru, Brihaspathi, he rode on Airavatha, the majestic 8 tusked white elephant of the Devas.
Surrounded by Agni, Vayu, Varuna, Surya, Chandra, Mitra and many more gods. Even Vishnu came on his kite, Garuda.
It was a terrible war and Mahishan used his Black powers to fight. He created tens and thousands of creatures, like himself. Buffalo headed, sharp horned and with the strength of 1000 elephants.
Vishnu tried to destroy the darkness with his Sudarsana chakra, but Mahishan was too powerful.
Both Vishnu and Brahma had to leave the battleground. Seeing this Mahishan captured Airavata and rode into Indra s palace and crowned himself King of Gods.
Indra escaped and ran to Lord Brahma who in turn led them to Mt. Kailasa to ask Lord Siva for help.
“What can I do? It was you who has given Mahishasuran these powers. We can go to Vishnu and ask Him ” said The Lord.
Vishnu closed his eyes and then asked all to pray to the Goddess of Power and Strength; the Devi alone could save them.
So they all prayed to the 3 wives;
Of Creation; Saraswathi,
Protection; Lakshmi and
They prayed for 9 days and 9 nights and waited, waited for the Power to rise.
On the 10thday they saw a marvellous sight:
The 3 Goddess had joined together to form a single Great, and Beautiful, Woman capable of defeating the terrible Demon.
She had 18 arms, long black hair and a face that shone like the sun.
The Devi had arrived.
Vishnu gave her his Sudarshana chakra
Agni his Shatagni,
Vayu his Bow and quiver of Arrows
Indra his Vajrayudha, thunderbolt.
Yama his Dandayudha
Himavan brought a mighty lion from the Himalayas, for her to sit on.
Surely they would win!
That day was going to be the day of victory; Vijayadasami
The Goddess laughed and the lion roared. The earth shook with the sound.
Mahishasuran saw this beautiful woman and said
“Oh beautiful lady, lets not fight, lets marry”.
The goddess laughed, “ Evil Mahisha give up your wrong ways and become good, otherwise I will destroy you”
Mahishan had never seen such a harsh woman before.
He kicked his legs and ran into the battle. He shot arrows at her and hit her lion with a mace, the Gadhai.
Then turned himself into a lion, the Devi bound him up with snake like ropes. To escape he again turned into an enormous elephant. The Devi’s lion leaped onto the elephant. He again turned into a snake, and then again into a buffalo. Mahishasuran changed into many forms.
Finally Devi raised her Trident, the 3 pronged spear and pierced his chest. The evil Mahishan was no more.
The whole world rejoiced, and called her Mahishasuramardini, the Slayer of Evil and the Guardian of Good.
“So, that’s why on the 10th day we celebrate Vijayadasami”, said Amma
Abu nodded his head slowly, “Amma Mahishan was very bad, was he not?”
“And Mashisa, Mahisha…what was her name?”
“Mahisha-sura-mardini, the killer of Mahisha”
“She was brave and strong, even though Mahishan thought that she was weak”, said Abu
“Yes, everyone can be brave and courageous, you just need to believe in it. We must find Shakthi, (strength) within ourselves, and that is what Navrathri festival is telling us”. Said Amma
“I think you are very strong, Amma’, said Abu, and ran away to help his sister Akila with the Rangoli patterns!
(Last Navarathri, my friend Priyanka and I did a stick puppet show with this story. The stick puppets can be viewed on one of my previous posts, Puppets on Display.)
If you have had the patience to come this far, I believe you and I share a similar passion for stories!!!....
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Three pairs of eyes, with innocence, follow me as I walk down the road lined with trees.
Each a copy of the other, of varying heights though.
The eldest pair of eyes walks with a smile on her face,
The second with a grim one,
The youngest has no walking to do as he is of the princely age of carriage!
My eyes follow them too,
As mother, daughters' and the little son in arms walk the road lined with trees.
Where do they go every morning? I wonder.
Such a picture they make.
The eldest in front, mother and son behind, and the straggling second,
Goaded by the elder to hurry up.
Neatly kept, they are always well dressed, little son with socks and scarf,
Daughters with skirt and top one day, a salwar on another, hair combed and braided.
Where do they go every day?
So tiny they are, like miniature soldiers, they follow in perfect discipline.
Marching one behind the other, or the other behind one, down the road lined with trees.
I look at them and give a smile, the eldest always has one to share,
The middle is too worried to look at me, as she has the catching up to do with mummy.
We move in two opposite directions, for our lives will not meet, but we follow each other with eyes of curious innocence
All the way down the road lined with trees.
The first point, of course, is: what story?
So that saw me searching and searching and searching... No luck! Desperate now, I came up with my humour (corny) but then we can only laugh at ourselves. So I thought of conferring a degree and an award on the ladies! The degree of the triple "B", and the AVSM.
Whats that? Triple B is awarded for having the Beauty, Brain and Brawn. Ladies in the air force are known for their beauty(ahem!!), and Brain, where else do we need to dish out 5 star fare at dabba rates (that's what I hear from my husband so often!). Didn't get that? That needs explanation: you see we ladies plan the ladies club parties, every second month and for that the hostess group is given a stupendous sum of (hold your breathe) Rs.1200/-. This has to cater for our food, games and gifts. So we really have to exercise those white muscles! The last category is one close to my heart, Brawn. No where else( as packers and movers is a relatively new concept in our forces), will you see the lady, having to go through periodic upheavals, where she has to sort, pack , supervise loading, unloading, unpacking and arranging all their "samaan" almost single handedly as hubby dear does his handing over /taking over ritual!! That's the joy of belonging to the armed forces!!
AVSM was conferred on the ladies for being Awesomely Versatile Superwomen of the Air force!
Where is the story , you'll ask. I'm coming to that. It was the last night before the "Talk", and I still didn't have a story. I was still browsing desperately, when a brain wave struck. The story I was looking for was with me all this while. I unearthed it.
A wonderful tale of friendship, bonding and farewell. The story of the Mountain and the Bird by Alice McFerran, told to us at one of the sessions during my storytelling course.
I wove the tale around them and the magic of the evening was captured by my story!
I enjoyed telling them and they too, enjoyed listening. After all a story is told for the listeners to be enthralled.
Once more a satisfied storyteller!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I was asked to show sign language at my daughter's school, which got extended to a small 40 minute programme on Disability and how children can help. I knew this was a group of 3rd, 4th and 5th std children and the best way would be ... through a story( I truly believe in the power of a story!!).
I Googled and as expected, got a wonderful story. Just the brief outline. But that was enough for me. I added relevant details and drama, and there was a tale for me to tell about a disabled Giraffe who is ridiculed and made the odd one out as he could not dance with his knobbly legs. He is then helped by his tiny friend, the Cricket, to come out with his own unique way to do a new dance, by choosing another song, a slow one. So the Giraffe creates the Swaying Dance!
The children really appreciated it, and what I could not have conveyed but just stating facts, I could convey through the story.
It is about using the abilities we have, instead of focusing on the disabilities that hamper us. So easy to tell, but difficult to execute. We have society to blame, but only partially. Half the responsibility falls on us too. If we do not always feel guilty about going away from the mainstream. Then we can also teach our children to make choices, that will make them and us happy.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
I still remember our library teacher,very strict, who used to get very annoyed if she saw us folding the corner of our books to keep the page! She would keep a track of who was reading which book and encouraged to read beyond our age if she saw fit. And I was Fit!!
No comics in our school library( at least I don't remember seeing them), only loads and loads of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and I forget the author of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe! I even remember my library teacher's name,Mrs.Unnikrishnan, she was diminutive in size but compensated with her glowering STARE. I now realize that it was a facade, otherwise we would never have taken her seriously, she was so small and cute!
There were tremendous phases in my reading. As sis did I followed, if not openly, Iwould do it surreptitiously. Enid Blyton was followed by, Nancy Drew, my favorite was Moonstone castle mystery. Then Hardy Boys, followed by Agatha Christy. In between you could see me with some Three Investigators (the old version was terrific, I never liked the later versions). Later, much later I started with PG Wodehouse.
Till now all pretty decent! Here comes the juicy parts. The Mills and Boon phase (cannot deny I was addicted at one point!). Its unbelievable, but it was my father who bought us our first Mills and Boon,(I even remember the name of this book,The Darling Jade!). Apparently he had picked it up in an airport lounge and just gave it to my sis on returning. We were hooked! He did not realize the consequence of his actions, I'm sure it was no big deal for him too.
We were members of this fungus ridden, ancient library called Venkateswara, and holidays saw us peddaling down to get some books.
I was about 12/13 years when I started with Mills and Boon. I used to read it on the sly, initially. I remember once I crept with the book upstairs, to our guest room, which was a cubby hole, with a bed, a mirror and thats all! I was reading with the door open so that if I heard anyone coming up the stairs, I could quickly hide the book. Well I didn't cater for being totally engrossed in the book, that I did not hear my sis coming up. When I saw her at the door, I just threw the book and ran from the room like a scared rabbit! Hilarious and even now I have a good laugh thinking of it.
Mills and Boon was followed by Temptations, very steamy I can tell you.This went on till college, and I know my mother was at her wits end to put a stop to it. She even threw these books from the top of our terrace, but that did not stop me!
I must grant that my parents had infinite patience and trust in us, as that phase too passed and we did not come out of it worse for wear. Probably one thing I can say is, that it has considerably infuenced my views on what is romance and the kind of romantic behaviour I expect from my husband( unrealistic you could say, especially if you knew my husband!!)
Now when I see my daughter going through a Tinkle and Suppandi phase, I recall my own Target phase. In fact it was a discussion on her liking for comics, and whether comics will inculcate good reading habits, that triggered off these thoughts on my blog.
Like me, I'm sure she will, explore, investigate and experiment with all kinds of books before she finds her likes and dislikes. I'm not so sure I can or will be as understanding and patient as my parents in this regard!!!
Monday, August 4, 2008
Here are some of my puppets for you all to see. As i had said earlier, I like working with paper. I am not much of a puppeteer and most of my puppets are used as props. The difference is that with puppets, they themselves play the role while the puppeteer takes the role behind, whereas i keep them with me as an illustrationwith me, mostly.
I love my story box for Rupa story, and know that it is a super hit. Bhasmasura is the big puppet, while Enormous croc., is a paper cover puppet. Simba is cloth and paper. Mahishasuramardhni is a stick puppet show( I thank my friend Priyanka without whom that story could not have been done.).
So enjoy and use your creative juices to come with wonderful stories.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
So "Simba the lion learns to roar", was the story for this Saturday. A wonderful time for me and the children. Hand puppets transported us to the jungle. Through this adaptation of a story,of a lion cub who finds his roar only when he faces danger, I tried to make the children more aware of their inner strength.
That we can do what we want when the time is right and when we are ready for it!
This was followed by a paper lion puppet making session. All in all, a super time for me and my kids.
I must thank my nieces here, for totally taking care of my son, who dislikes sharing me with the audience. So my friend(my son!) wants to sit on my lap during the session, or he constantly bombards me with questions, so i am unable to proceed, and don't know whether i am coming or going! Luckily. this time I had help and as he was not there, i could concentrate on the story.
The opposite goes for my daughter who gets so thoroughly involved in the story and activity, that I can say she is my most ardent fan!
Check out some photos
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Enormous Crocodile, for those who have not read the story, is about a nasty croc. who likes to eat children. Gruesome , i know, but then i start my session by telling the children that such things dont exist and a story is a story.( I know some pragmatists can be up in arms that I am filling children up with nonsense, but then does everything have to make sense? Let them enjoy the nonsense, says moi.). Irresponsible!!
Most of my puppets are made with paper, the medium I prefer, and I combine this with voice modulation. The second time I did this story, it was like a puppet show, and the children liked it even more. All of them crowding to try their hands at it.
That's the fun part, the interactive nature of storytelling, is getting children to loose their inhibitions and be there, through and with the story. In fact in one session I had two reluctant paricipants literally sitting on my lap at the end!
(Just expressing my amazement! )
As for doing sessions in Madras, I'd love to. With 2 school going children thats possible only during the summer holidays!
Next time I will upload some pictures of my puppets , try them out, they are pretty easy to make, and are simple devices to keep a group of children doing something creative!
(Just going off the track, want to mention how we thamizh, like our spellings well rounded, any one else will spell Bhasmasuran as Bhasmasura, and Pustakalaya as Pustakalay...but i just cant do it!!)
Now, where was I? Yes, I enjoy telling this story, for which I have made a pretty Mohini puppet with paper and a large Bhasmasuran with thermocol, wool and paper. He actually looks funny, rather than scary. That's how I wanted it. Its done the rounds so is slightly worse for wear, but, the story enthralls my audience, who love the end.
Indian stories are so much fun to tell. An interesting site that you can check out to get some Indian stories, shlokas is Raja Thathas corner. Very interesting, simple to navigate and there is a new story uploaded every day. So you can read one and tell them to your children, I do that!
There are many shlokas included as well. So check out the site and get back to me.
(today, some how I am at a loss for words, so my post length is small).
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
I resume my musings on the art of storytelling. Story telling as you all know is an ancient art, and in India the oral tradition dates back to thousands of years. Even as far back as 15 to 20 years back grandparents were available (on demand!) to tell stories, ranging from religious to ribald. Now too, stories are told but not by humans, conveniently we have been replaced by electromagnetic waves.
Shove in the CD or the VCD and and children stay put for an hour or two.
Believe me I do it too, so I am not here to criticize anyone, my idea is to take you to the world of the story teller and try to project, how different the same story appears in the hands of an adept story teller.
So in this context I want to introduce you to an organization, unique in its role of training storytellers. Kathalaya is in Bangalore and they train interested personnel, from all walks of life, in the art of storytelling. After that the world is your stage!
(See my link to the same)
The lady who has started this organization Geeta Ramanujam has been in the field for many many years. The other person is Jeeva Raghunath from Chennai. Its interesting to note that both are Thamizh, though G.Ramanujam has domiciled in Bangalore for so long she is fluent in Kannada as well.
I have been searching for comprehensive sites of people working as storytellers in India, but find that time and again, only Kathalaya comes up.
Different art forms, like Yakshaganam, Kathakali, Koothu, use story telling, but what we are talking about is whether our modern day children can connect with this?
So here in lies contemporary storytelling, which is the narrative style using props, in a language that children can understand.
I will be back with more reviews on interesting story telling sites.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Lush green, meets our eyes
Is this our India, land of grime?
Inescapable, Panaji though is
Hot and humid, dirty and dusty.
Resort life we wanted no part of
As we set off to explore Goa.
Boarded the bus for there to see
Churches and beaches, and Portuguese!
A different world, a foreign one
Of roadside altars and feni bars.
Ladies in frocks, and men in shorts
Funny alien guise for an Indian visage!
Famous churches, more famous beaches
In different hues and different shades.
Some red and sandy
Some rocky and gray
Here white skins frolic in gay abandon
While brown skins watch with quiet amusement!
Sunset cruise on the Mandovi
Ringing music on turbulent waters.
Where mountains meet water,
Without bars nor barriers.
Where blue skies merge
With green and glossy foliage.
Here lies such naked beauty
Here lies such virgin purity.
An enchanting time, an enchanted world.
But will it remain
for future generations the same?
The Royal Rayas and their splendid kingdom
Spread over the valley of Tunga in great abundance.
From Vittala to Virupaksha
From Lotus Mahal to Bhima's Gate.
We amazed at the expanse,
We admired the extent.
Kings and Queens,
Ministers and Subjects
Once tread this soil
Shared the ground we stand!
Oh! For those romantic times;
Of poetry in stone
Of language in art
Of wars won and lost
Of lovers new and past.
Of rulers who become monarchs
Of maids who become queens.
We were transported in time, standing amidst the ruins,
Thinking thoughts of the splendor...and the fall.
Wondering at the enormity, saddened by the pall.
Would I go back in time
Not at all....maybe?!!
Ajanta and Ellora
Opened up like Pandora's
To reveal beauty in stone.
Caves and Hollows.
Mortar and Clay.
Pillars and Statues.
Tempera and Lime.
Tools of ancient clime
Toiled, to capture time.
Preserved forever on mountain walls
By faithful monks working with awls.
(Dare we create such magnificence now?)
None prepared ,
Not all ready.
She jerks me out of complacency!
No more late mornings
No more breakfast in bed
She'll wake you in the wee hours
Howling to be fed!
Its like being hit by lightning
Swift and shocking!
And our toddler is way ahead
Shoving and pushing.
Move over things
You are all not to be spared!
The anticipation at the begin'
Thoughts of you my baby
Encompass me like a blanket.
A time, I cherish, this bond,
These special moments.
Are you mine? I wonder.
This is the beauty of nature
The marvels of creation.
Cliches for sure, yet for each
An inexplicable experience
This cozy haven,for you,
Created in me, to hold,
Till you are ready to face us,....me.
Stay there little one safe and sound
Because, you are not yet, to meet the world!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
One needs to be inspired or suppressed enough to write! You may wonder at this dichotomy, but I know it holds true.
I draw inspiration from Sudha Murthy, yes our own Goddess of Good! Silly name but I say it with fondness, because I have personally benefited from her goodness, and any one who I keep on the pedestal and I am in awe of, I call Goddess!
I happened to read her book, "How I taught My Grandmother to Read and other stories" Simple, lucid and direct, to the point that I felt I could have written each and every one of them. I dedicate my amateur efforts totally to her!
She takes very ordinary, day to day events and people, and presents them to us in her typical forthright manner. Being an uncomplicated person, thats what appealed to me and launched me off on an exciting, catharatic journey with words.
The other aspect that goads creativity is supression! You may wonder how and why, but history records and I confirm that when one is unable to express oneself freely, creativity with words flows abundantly. So also with me. So now that there is freedom I wonder whether i will be as creative?!
Any incident can become a story. So in my quest for stories I encounter interesting discoveries and understanding.
Hear ye, Hear Ye! Lets Swap some stories
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Choosing a story is no easy job. There are thousands to choose from and thousands of ways to interpret it too.I like to choose my stories keeping the the climax in view. But it is tough. The story has to strike that chord, otherwise as a storyteller I cannot be convincing enough. I like my stories to have an element of fun, suspense or adventure and mostly what appeals to me is fantasy!
Having grown up on a solid foundation of Enid Blytons, Nancy Drews and Hardy boys, its no surprise that what appeals to me are stories with all these elements. Children of course enjoy the unpredictable, a twist, a googly, a suspense. I have not yet found a good suspense story that can be narrated....
Every story that I have done till now has a plot, which I feel is essential to spark that creativity in children. It should have a beginning, which is an introduction of the main characters, followed by a mission or the plot, culminating in its success or defeat, the end.
Not all story tellers follow this narrative style, some are happy doing short stories, with simple story lines. Some use the given story text, verbatim. The difficulty in my way is that I dont find a lot of stories appealing, especially if the story line is small.
Yet the creativity of a story teller could also be in expanding the story, combining two stories, making up new themes, keeping the bare essentials of the original storyline, and conjuring up a totally different conclusion. Literally writing a new story based on an existing one. This of course can be developed over a period of time, yet for me the appeal and challenge is to find the right story!
Summer is the time for children to explore other interests and I think its wonderful the opportunities children ( and adults like me, who work part time!) have nowadays. So this summer I did 4 days of story telling with the children of N.
3 days of story telling followed by an activity, where I taught them to make simple paper puppets ( I had to put in a lot effort on this, rather than on the actual story!). On the fourth day I used the puppets we had made and created my own story, based on the original, a heart warming tale of a cows' adherence to truth and sacrifice. I happened to narrate this to my BIL and got ...silence. Then an insight into the value that this story was upholding. A value, of appeal to our grandparents, but by his opinion, with no relevance to our present.
Will we ask our children to enter into a potentially suicidal situation?
He asked me to rethink how I could have narrated the story in a different way, with the animals coming up with a better plan, rather than upholding sacrifice, as is in the original story.
I generally believe every story of mine conveys a very positive message, but in this particular story, I had only looked at how to fit in the puppets(we had made), and overlooked the value communicated.
It is an important insight, for selecting a story.
The idea, even when we use mythological stories, must convey contemporary, practical, and relevant values( that is if we wish to convey any at all... as I said earlier, all stories need not uphold some value!).
What do you look for in a story?
Sunday, May 25, 2008
A person is lucky ( or so it is said) to get into a vocation that one can be passionate about. I guess I can make the choice to be passionate about the job I do, or I can take a job that I am passionate about. But how many of us have to relegate our passion into the hobby zone and do a job that is rooted in the realistic world( I assume our passions are in the creative, more dreamy zone!)
I happened to meet Mr.V of Story trails, who has converted his passion for travel and stories into a lucrative business. He spent 15 minutes talking about the concept behind his passion, and I envy his ability to convert ideas into reality! What a niche market,he has sought, and takers are aplenty. And why not, where entertainment is a remote controlled box, any alternative is worth it.
What is exciting is exploring culture and history from the story tellers point of view. Its not about dates or architecture, its the nuances of everyday life showcased to the audience who may otherwise not notice it.
I want to capture this magic for a different audience in a different city...but not being a native can I pull it off?
Need to do some exploring...
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Any one can tell a story, what makes it special is how the story teller intergrates the audience into her story. As long as I am in front of my audience, I make eye contact with each and every one of them ( I try to atleast). Ask them questions and use them as my sound board. Children love it.They enjoy the freedom the story teller gives them, to express what the feel, at the same time the thrill that whatever they say will be used within the story is a great energiser. I can feel the audience going through the range of emotions that I express in the course of a story.
Of course that makes me come to the point that the story is the most important part of the experience, however animated or expressive the story teller may be, the story has to appeal to your age group. One thing about children is that they cannot be easily fooled. If the story teller does not have a good script, then the reaction of the audience will be quite contrary.
Thinking on these lines I have to tell you my experience with this play school, TK. I approached them for my first session and they quite happy to use me ( I guess as a novice I didnt want to charge them more, so that was a crucial factor, in their agreeing to have the session). The first story was my "signature story", which I followed up with an activity . Great show, good feedback. The staff was very happy, lot of heavy meaning in the story, and they were happy that I had given some " value" based session, ( for a group of children ranging from toddlers to kindergartners).
Then came the next session. Eager beaver that I was, I jumped at their invitation. That was my first mistake,(I should have tried to appear busy). This was a fun story, lot of animal sounds that I knew would appeal to such young children....Yet my feedback was shocking!
'Last time was better', they said, 'not upto the mark', they felt.
I came back home pensive. I knew by the way the children react whether the children like the story or not, and this time the children were more involved than the last time. Was I wrong in my choice of story.
Not at all.
It was in the expectations of the adults in the environment.
I tell the story, keeping the children in mind, but adults some times fail to see that all learning need not have some " value", some "moral".
Stories need not always have a moral standing or be an educative experience.
I could have extracted some 'value' from the story that I did, but...do I need to? What do you say?
Thursday, May 22, 2008
My first story was 'Rupa the Elephant.' We had to prepare a story as a part of our certificate course at Kathalaya.
I wanted it to be 'Rupa', as I have told this story to my children a million times and know that it will be a sure shot hit. For me every story is a process...i think out the story, even if I have the book or story at hand I need to write(read that as -type, as we are in the computer age!) it out and then have my own script, and then prepare the props, add the sound effects and conclusions,etc... As I type out my story I visualise how to present the same to the children and literally can feel the kind of props I would require.
I love to explore the different mediums in story telling, Chithrakathas, Stick puppets, Hand puppets, story boards.
The easiest to make are stick puppets, hand puppets require a lot of practice. My forte is in using a lot of voice modulations and facial expressions along with my puppets.
Coming back to Rupa, I made a story box. That is a box with the primary characters cut out and displayed (as and when they come into the picture), like a mini theatre, with stationary characters.
The children loved it and till date it remains my signature story! Now I have added a song to it, which really catches their attention.
Its amazing how a simple story told in such a manner can inspire children, my own are living proof of that.
Have you inspired your children, or family members with a story? Tell me.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
So thats how I made my script( there the secret is out), based on Abu's Navrathri. I wanted to include all the elements, a small model of the "Golu padi", even a tiny Kalasam!! Abu and Amma chatting away, about why we celebrate golu, and the differences between North Indian and South Indian customs.This was followed by the stick puppet show...simply great.
We took it around Bangalore city, Crossword book store, Easy lib, and even Shishugraha school. But by the time we took it to the school Navrathri was long gone and we were close to Diwali, so some additions and deletions were made. Yet I feel the original version was more comprehensive, but my friend and partner felt it was too tedious for children to follow...we differ in our opinion!
I generally feel we South Indians are more open to ideas and opinions, or I could put it this way we are more tolerant of others views.... what do you say?
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
It was fun going down memory lane and trying to capture yourself on paper, i think my children enjoyed it as much as i did! Try it, its a lot of fun.