SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Monday, November 30, 2009

Questions for myself

What are we afraid of?
Afraid that we may not be giving our best to our children
Afraid that we are not helping them realise their potential.
Afraid that they will not make the right choices
Afraid they will commit the same mistakes that we did
Afraid that we may be judged as inadequate parents

What is fear that we use subtly and sometimes so blatantly?
Isn't this the fear that raised us?
Why pass it on to our future?
Why make our children a reflection of ourselves?
Can they never make mistakes? Should we never make mistakes?
Why teach righteousness, when nothing is black and white, and everything is in shades of gray?

Why this anger?
Where does it come from?
Who is it directed against?

What is education if it cannot make a person self confident?
Isn't education a system of comparison?
Are we teaching/learning life skills?
What use is this redundant education?

Where is this pursuit taking us if we cannot live this moment in happiness?
What is this happiness?
Is it a thing, a person, a job, a commitment, a fulfillment?

Am I defined by what I do now, or what I leave behind?

What am I?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Simple pleasure..finding the right one

A friend of mine in 5th standard wants a story for her story telling competition. What I enjoy about the school is all these extra activities that are conducted for the children. Read that as Story telling specifically, which is an integral part of the inter house competitions. Both Hindi and English story telling competitions are held from first to fifth.
It did not take me long to select a story for my friend, and here is a link to the story I chose for her. Scroll down for "The Faithful friend".
Click here

This was a time when the child's character stands out so well in my mind that the process of selecting was quite easy. Affectionate, very fond of animals and friends, so this story is ideal for her.
It is the story of a parrot that does not want to leave its injured friend , a Tree. Finally it rejoices when its love and concern is rewarded by an angel who gives back life to the tree.

Cathy Spagnoli, from whose site I took the story is a veteran story teller. What is interesting is her link to Tamilnadu and Chennai in particular as her story telling travel brought her there, and she finally married a Tamilian! She tells a lot of Asian tales, and is seen as a pioneer of English Storytelling in Asia.

The pleasure of finding the right story and telling it to people, to be able to convey the feelings and thought behind the story and how it touched me...that is pure joy in itself.

My friend has to still tell the story. She loved it, but I have to wait to find out the reaction of the judges...

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Take on Story telling

Story telling is different from Drama or solo/mono is an interactive process where the audience is asked to move with the Teller, imagine with the Teller, and experience with the Teller.
There are many others qualified to give an insight on these differences, but I speak from my thoughts/heart.
For those who enjoy performing arts this is a very genteel art to pursue. I call it that because, there is no right or wrong way to do Stories.
The only way is to connect with your audience. To share with them a thought, a feeling, an experience.
With younger children it is important to have a story line, as they need a plot, an organized thought process, which they themselves may not have in their thoughts.
While with an audience that gets older, you don't need an organized plot. You need to spark imaginations,and even give them an opportunity to make their own endings, extract their own conclusions.
Yet there are some Learnings that I have gained from my own meager experiences in story telling:
a) Don't tell till you are sure about the acoustics. Problems with the mike or the sound system is the first step to not connecting with your audience...and it's not worth having a bad feeling at the end of the session, when you know it's not you but the technical part that has slipped
b) For smaller and cosier groups, go in for an enclosed space, especially when there is no mike and you have to rely on voice,
c) Eye contact and smile...connect with your audience, move with them, include them, share yourself with them,
d) Have no inhibitions! A teller who is comfortable is loved the most.
e) Believe there is no right or wrong in this, it is a process of Sharing, and the most wonderful aspect of the telling,
f) Choose your story well, age, interest and environment plays a crucial role in this
g) If the environment is not conducive to the telling, you cannot connect with the audience...
h) Brief the hosts. Puppet shows require greater involvement from adults to keep the audience from getting up and trying to see behind the screen(!) (Happened to me). So you need an adult to keep the kids from peeping behind!
i) Puppet shows and Story telling are very different, and people usually expect a puppet show when you say Story telling, so make that very Clear!
j) Telling a story, visualizing a story for an audience is different from Reading a Story! The Teller needs to recreate the story, add her own imagination, thoughts and feelings, and improvise the story with out taking away from the story. I would even say this, the Teller has every right to make additions and deletions, in order to convey her message, her thought to the audience.
k) While as you Read a story, it is only right for the Teller to convey exactly what the writer has expressed in words.
l) So Story telling is an improvisation, an adaptation of a plot, a manner of sharing creative verbal imagery!

The end product may be very different from what you shared with a different audience, at another time!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lucknow Tales


We were at the Bada Imambara at Lucknow.
Amazing building and amazing people behind the building. Why would some one want to build such a majestic structure? Add to that the Bul Bulaiya, that is the maze which runs through the walls and pillars, and runs through 3 levels. The guide tells us there are 1000 ways within the maze,but only 1 way is the right one to get us out of it!
It appears that man will do anything for posterity and this is definitely an example of that. You and I can enjoy the quirks of the moneyed class as they leave behind monuments and minarets for future generations to explore and savor.
This building brings to my mind the innumerable photos of SRK's palatial house Mannat floating around the cyber world. Then there is even our own favorite batsman's new pad...with foyer designed like the interior of a conch shell!! It's true, google around and you will find it.
And what about Ambani tower?
..what about it...mmm....surely that is one monument waiting to be converted to a museum when their owner's are no more...

Kids enjoyed the Bul Bullaiya a lot, and finally the guide made my son act as the guide to find out the correct route. Of course we got lost and he had to help us out!
My Mom shares my fascination for such adventures through lands and landmarks. It was great fun, 3 generations exploring that fantastic space, each one carrying away different thoughts and feelings.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Telling with Lewis Carroll

The Walrus and The Carpenter
Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright--
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done--
"It's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"
"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?

"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.

A favorite poem of mine you can read the technical details in wikipedia. Another site which has exclusive Carroll poems, called, is also great to catch up on Lewis.
But having read this poem, you cannot come away admiring Carroll and his writing skills. The appeal is so universal and timeless.
I am especially fond of stories within poems. This is a great example of that genre.
Children can work out different voices for the characters. Lots can be done with this poem!

Have your 8/9/10 year old read it out, enact it..its great!
Its also fun to find out what children feel about betrayal, and cheating. Make it humorous, don't get serious.
You will be surprised how serious topics if dealt with humour connects with children much faster than if we are all tight about it!

Jabberwocky (click) is another poem I love to read out to children. This has many nonsense word, or words that Lewis just made up by combining other words. It is tough to get the roots words and fun to explore with children. The suitable age to do this with them is 9 years and above.
You could also make up your own words and add meaning to them. Try it and tell me how it went!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Love letter

Ok, Here is a no frills, no hype Love Letter. Wondering who is sending me this in my old age? Who else but my son!!
He has got into this card making phase and made one for his Sister, with so many of the "Love you's" on it.. I did not recover from the shock for almost half an hour!! Subsequently when I pouted that I had no Love you's from him (he He), he landed up making this one for me.
Don't ask me what a Vatapi is ..he just made it up, and doesnt know the meaning too...hahah...

Children are not appreciated enough..we can find fault so easily (include me as the Primary Culprit of that), but appreciating their efforts and thoughts, we are stingy with that ... for thought ...Yes??

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What should I write about?

Got this new widget on the left hand check it out and leave your suggestions...
It is taken from the skribit check it out too
My interests range from storytelling, stories, and life's lessons...!!
So do leave your suggestions and I will do my best.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Amazing Storyteller

Story teller: Carmen Agra Deedy, tells a personal story with her own twists and turns. The cuban accent, the flow of words, the humour and the message at the end, truly takes us through a voyage of thoughts and imagination.
She tells us a simple story of her Nonagenarian mother, taking the car out on the sly, and making her a part of this mayhem!!
She holds the audience in her grip. Weaving such a vivid picture and with such humour. To Tell a story with so many nuances is really a skill!
I felt the words have been delivered slightly fast, but then so are we Indians accused of talking too fast!

Story telling and stories...
Any one who is fascinated by both must see this..she is amazing...

There are many such Tellers even in our own families. True they may not tell so precisely or with such coherence, yet Story telling is in born in most Humans.

Grandmothers are known for their storytelling skill. Ask any one they will tell you that having a grandmother at home is such a boon, as Story telling duties can be promptly handed over to them!
Myths and Legends, Folktales and Riddles, grandmothers seem to have acquired a stache of such valuable information over the years!!
My grandmother too was one such story teller, and we used to look forward to cuddling up next to her at night and listen to her stories. We would throw our legs on top of her,(quite), well proportioned tummy and rest our cheeks on her shoulder as she would start the session with some prayers, and then follow it up with a story. Usually half way through she would doze off(hahah!!),and we would have to prod or nudge her to continue!
At other times she would go off at a tangent, mixing up stories as she was actually half asleep!! We would happily scold her, tell her she had the story all wrong and correct her...
I remember many riddles and jokes that she used to crack during these times, and of course the stories. They were the regular ones, from Krishna Avatar or Ramayana or Mahabharatha..yet what remains with me now is the magic that was created as we cuddled close to her and listened to her voice as it pleasantly vibrated through us.

There is nothing as beautiful as Oral Story telling tradition, people nowadays don't realise that it is one of the most meaningful ways to connect with children...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Get me There

Travel is by itself an amazing way to connect with yourself and the world that you live in. Any one who travels and loves that feel of packed bags and constant move will understand what I say. Traveling in India is by no means easy. It is easier nowadays, yet one never knows what to expect. Bookings have to be done much ahead of time, availability, comfort, route so many factors to be looked into depending on where we want to travel, and how far.
I love driving around. Don’t be mislead, I don’t do much highway driving, not so comfortable with those high speeds. I would rather have my husband drive me around (that’s the ideal situation as he drives superbly!), but a driver from the local travels will do too!!
If we travel by our own vehicle, then we are better off, especially when it is done with kids…the breaks can be taken as and when they, or we wish. Driving around in your own car seeing places is the ideal way to travel!

We have done some interesting travel by road, even carrying my daughter’s potty chair along with us on some trips. An additional member to my family having arrived, we found it inconvenient for all 3 of us to sit at the back, while daddy drove us. So that is when we were given a brilliant idea to level out the back seat and to throw in cushions and blankets at the back. Provided entertainment as well (some books and games) and the kids had their own play area to move in as much as they wanted. Definitely making our trips super smooth and easy!

We had friends who carried a little stove and provisions too! Traveling from Bangalore to Jorhat (in Assam) they could make breakfast along the way, stopping at convenient locations. I am sure that would have tasted far better than any thing they would have bought.
I met an interesting person the other day who tells me that he has traveled almost 75% of India, all by road, and he has not hit the age of 30! What a useful life he has led!! (Don’t ask me how he got the time off from work for all this…mmm…he has probably spent a lot of time away from work than on it!!).
All this, and add to that the wonderful world that flashes by as you drive through the veins and arteries of our lovely country. What more can one ask for?

The “dadak dadak” sound, the rattle and the wheeze as it pulls into the station. The various sounds inside the railway station; the ring of the announcements, the vendors calling their wares, the hustle and the bustle, makes me nostalgic, as I relive the many journeys I have taken. Traveling by train is another great way to see the earth we inhabit.

As a child I remember how eagerly I used to look forward to our trip to Bombay. My Aunt’s house was there, and those journeys are etched in my mind. We traveled for 2 days, carrying enough food to feed an army, chatting and making friends with strangers, openly talking and sharing details of our life with no inhibitions, and no care or concern. Just the joy of moving!!

As a teenager and later in college, a lot of my travel was done by train. Magical times that cannot be experienced at any other time in life. Traveling with friends is a wonderful way to learn about yourself, and other people. Situations and events, needs and challenges of traveling, brings out the best or the worst in humans. Children who have the opportunity to travel from a young age have a definite advantage over others.

Then we come to Air travel. It has never impressed me. Of course as a child I have dreamt of “flying”, but once there was/is greater opportunity to travel this way, I believe I can only see it as convenient, but not at all appealing in terms of experience. It is necessary, especially when we have small children and want to reach our destination as fast as possible. Yet I really don’t like the cramped spaces (the toilets for sure), and the lack of scenery. That’s the earth tone in me speaking!
I like the lounge areas though, as I unashamedly stare at fellow travelers, wondering why they are going, wherever they are?!! The transit lounge is the best place to engage in such activities, and I usually find myself a corner where I can have a good view of people boarding and arriving, so that I can make up my imaginative stories of them!

I could do the same at railway stations, but the difference, at railway stations is the sheer pace at which things happen. There is no time to sit and stare at people, unless you have arrived very early (which rarely may be the case)! Usually I am panting and puffing to the assigned platform, worried that I should have got the date right, the time right, packed all essentials, and not left any of my kids at home!
So reporting for departure an hour earlier while traveling by air, ensures that atleast I can enjoy gazing at the crowd!!

I have not traveled any other way. But, if you add all the moving around that I have done by Bicycle, then you can call me a much traveled traveler, though the destinations may not be as varied!

Yet all I can say on a final note... all I ask as a passionate traveler is this...
Give me a brilliant destination of historic value, that’s all I ask: That’s all!!
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