SOULTales - Character Strengths, Stories & Vocabulary

Friday, October 29, 2010

In the Manner of Thinking...

Have you ever been there?

When your mind is in panic and your thoughts are washing over you in one negative wave after another, when it seems as if the world is suffocating you, when every breathe is like a coiled snake around your chest, and that very chest will burst, explode with grief and pain?

If you have, then I understand you and so read on...

If you have not, then to understand read on...

At these moments of pain and anger, or pain and despair, get out.

Go out of the house, put some distance between you and that which is causing this reaction in you.
and take yourself to a....bookshop...
Yes a bookshop...

Browse, look around, then pick up the first book that catches your attention, flip through it, stop at a page, read it...
In all probability you will find the answer you are looking for...


Try it.

This is not the first time I have done it...but I must confess this is the first time I have noticed how I reach to books for solace. I noticed how the answers we are looking for are within our sub conscious, and it is probably that which guides us to look for reassurances from the outside world.

By answers I don't mean solutions, not at all. Yet these lines and words that we do automatically reach out to, illuminate our path to understanding.

In all of this I feel as if there is a power beyond us, or is it within us(?), which is showing us...reflecting ourselves to us.

I don't remember the book I picked up, nor the author, but it told me that when expectations are not met, when we find that the other person is completely unmoved by your point of view, then replace the Anger that you feel with Dismay, and feel the changes that this thinking brings into your self, and how you handle the situation.

Anger and Dismay for me, are the flip side of the same coin.

With anger I react...many times irrationally, emotionally
but by changing it to dismay...I find the emotion is responsive and rational.

Why does the word make a difference?

Anger is telling you, You are right and they are Wrong, and the ego finds that processing this is hurtful , so reactive/ emotional.


Dismay is telling you You are right but they have not understood, and the ego finds ways and means to communicate this!

Simple?...Now Sceptical...?

Do try this with yourself and need to believe in this, as is true with any thing in life.
Also remember you need to go with a question...but believe me even without questions, many times the words that I pick out from a book seems to reflect my thoughts for that moment.

Changing the way we think after all is the most positive way to tackle situations, isn't it?

Since this post is very close to me, please do leave your thoughts....

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who is not a Storyteller?

* Storytelling is a human universal, and common themes appear in tales throughout history and all over the the world.
* These characteristics of stories, and our natural affinity toward them, reveal clues about our evolutionary history and the roots of emotion and empathy in the mind.
* By studying narrative’s power to influence beliefs, researchers are discovering how we analyze information and accept new ideas.

I have reached a stage in life when I run from definitions and formulae. Do I want to define anything? Do I have formulas for anything?

What does this have to do with the link and the points I have copied above?

On the surface they may not be related, but to me while I run away from such boundaries and lines, I am still searching internally for a common thread that binds my scientific side to my irrational side.

That's where I find storytelling.

I find when we tell stories we can fuse facts with fiction, and the merger is primarily what constitutes most of Evolutionary History and Scientific Inquiry.

Scientists fantasise about their theories, corroborating them with facts they tell us a story.
Historians collect facts and then place the people and emotions within a context to tell us a story.
Psychologists gather human emotions, thoughts and feelings to place them in scientific patterns and make their stories.
Physicist and Mathematicians by far are the most fascinating storytellers, as they delve into abstract worlds of numbers and concepts, to understand which we need to garner amazing amounts of imagination!
Biologists tell us stories of Evolution.
You get the point.....

Who is Not a story teller you tell me?

Nowadays when I listen to people talk, I hear stories.
I hear the source of their stories, I hear the context of their stories, I feel the characters, I feel their emotions, I see their narrative!

I believe it is a world I never want to leave...where facts and fiction fuse into a sensual world of words.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A story~~The Treasure we Hold~~

Thich Nhat Hahn

A beautiful book called A pebble for my Pocket by Thich Nhat Hahn.
It holds some valuable thoughts and stories that we can share with our children. In fact it is meant to be read by kids. As it explores mindfulness and meditation. It also helps children observe the world around them and experience the gift that nature bestows on us.

I picked out a story from this book, for our Ladies club event( a farewell once again!).

A rich man is in despair with his lazy son. He tries to tell him to change his ways and also tells him to hone a talent to help him in his life. Yet the son does not heed his father's word. The father is not one to let things rest, after much thought he calls his tailor and asks him to stitch a coat lined with fur for his son. Once ready, he hands this coat to his son and says that whatever is lost or taken away from him the son should ensure that he does not loose nor give away this coat. The son is amused but accepts his father's request.
As expected the father passes on, and the son is not mindful of his wealth, squanders it away and so looses all his possessions and friends. Destitute and desolate he wanders from place to place, not knowing which way to go or what to do. One night he reaches the brink of despair and lying under a tree he contemplates death. Tossing and turning he is not comfortable as he feels something poking his rib cage. He looks around, clears the ground; yet, that something keeps poking him.
He feels inside his fur lined coat. Yes! the same coat his father had asked him to preserve and the only possession he had retained. To his amazement he tears the coat to find a shining gem in his hands. A treasure that he now vows to safe guard and cherish and not squander. He then goes on to use the gem and live his life wisely and compassionately.

This gem stands for all the treasures we hold in our hands and that surround us. In Buddhism they perceive a world studded with gems, called Darmakaya. It tells and shows us the jewel studded world around us, the beautiful blue sky, the green grass and the deep waters.
The story asks us to acknowledge and be mindful of what we have and not despair at what is lost.
I see it this way too: Why did the son find the jewel when he hit rock bottom and not before? Surely it is when we experience the very lows that we seek ways to come up.Life has cycles of Up and Down, do not deny the lows, but use it to find ways to rediscover the treasures in your life.

I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I enjoyed reading it and sharing it with you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Salut le Raconteur!


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Went to meet this very warm and prolific story teller at a library called Hippocampus.
What was memorable for me was the way she shared her involvement with story telling.
Most tellers are passionate about what they do. Yet developing a unique technique and style is also the toughest part.
This French Storyteller spoke with such ease in a language that she does Not use for story telling; English! That fascinated me.
The other was the fact that she feels comfortable telling stories of Caucasian origin, from Russia. Yet she has no connection with this country. She also went on to say that when she first landed in Russia ( I dont remember which city she mentioned), she felt she knew the place before. That is the connection and identification that goes with story telling.
One can travel to so many different worlds through a story. Isn't it amazing?!

Her prolific collection of stories are gathered from every part of the world. The stories themselves published in French are organised for every day of the year. "365 stories" is how she presents it, and one can go to lets say 7th July and if it happens to be your birthday then there is a story to read or share on your special day!I thought that was very creative!

She also collects musical instruments, and you can see one at the left corner, from Brazil. How one would use a musical instrument or for that matter any aid/prop is completely up to the teller.

Storytelling in our country is not viewed in the same way as in European or American society. I believe our own story tellers are so rooted in tradition in vernacular and in religiosity, it is difficult thinking of Story telling in the contemporary way that other societies perceive it.

Of course there is no need to follow the west! Keeping the traditional method, we can tell a modern tale. Now that is a thought I am going to work on!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Story Time


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Here is my reason for not bringing you stories of my Navarathri. I was telling them!!

Got to do both the stories this Navarathri at the same activity centre.
Mahishasuramardini, this time was accompanied by some music and a cute introduction with my friend and favourite puppet; Sukhi.
You know that makes me wonder why I have never told you about my pal Sukhi...I will surely dedicate one post to out for it!

But the craziness was in preparing a story in 2 days. I had to plan and make my visuals(props) for Ramayana in that time. I tell you it was crazy. Where to begin, and how to make it worth listening to?
Most Indian children have all the facts of the story, so I knew it has to be something different and interactive and fun.
So we made a bridge!
The Vanara Sena or Monkey brigade with their monkey masks( yes I made that too from scratch!), made stones and boulders with newspaper and then constructed a bridge on the ocean( a blue Dupatta), and finally having reached Lanka, vanquished Raavan with bows and arrows!
If you notice in the photograph, there are some faces on sticks lying beside Raavan, well those are his heads. 10 children held those heads on sticks, and succumbed to the arrows shot at them. The final arrow was then shot at his navel, and the children went off, holding their masks and thrilled to bits at having defeated Raavan!

It was an amazing time for me. As I understood how much I could push myself if I wanted to. Yet as I am not very artistic, I think it takes me more time and effort to draw and cut out my characters.

Its a great feeling to make an experience out of a story for a child or for that matter an adult too.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sequel-Navrathri 2010




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Here is my sequel.

3 steps as usual, with a small display on the side.

The story U selected was so spontaneously done that I was quite impressed with her.

It is the story of Narada, and his little pride! Narada asks Lord Vishnu to point out the most truthful devotee, expecting the Lord to acknowledge him as one. But Lord Vishnu points out a hard working and poor farmer, who takes the lord's name every morning and night. Narada is offended, as he believes he utters the Lord's name every second!
Lord Vishnu then asks Narada to carry a cup of oil around the world without spilling a drop. Narada does so and is proud to return with not a drop spilt.
Yet, when the Lord asks him, how many times he took His name, Narada was then able to see the truth behind His words!
The farmer, in spite of all his troubles and worries could think of the Lord, but when employed in a similar manner Narada completely forgot to take His name.

For me this story is significant, not because of my piety, but because I believe in the power of prayer and surely by choosing this story my daughter somehow touched a chord.

Hope you enjoyed the story.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Navrathri 2010

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Ok! folks!
Its on! I know.
Its time for Golu, Sundal, Sweets, Vethilai, Paaku, Gifts, Kumkum, Girls in pretty Pavadais, Maami's in Kanjeevaram silks,Diamonds and gold, Heaven on earth Jasmine, Agarbathis and Dhoop, Dolls and Stories, Creativity and Kolams, Carnatic music and Gossip, and not to miss out Wry faced husbands who find their pockets emptying fast!!

I wonder how my mother and before her, my paternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother had the enthusiasm to do this year after year with unflagging happiness and joi de vivre?!

Mine is almost non existent, blame it on the transfer I say!

How long am I going to use this excuse....till new year I guess.

From August onwards, Hindus take a nose dive into functions/festivals and general happiness. Starting from Ganesh Chathurthi till it hits Karthigai (karthik poornima)in the month of December, we are constantly challenging ourselves in the cullinary way, and every other way! Trying not to give up on age old and much loved rituals and practices and at the same time trying to balance career, home, children's school, dance and music practice( add any sport of yr choice) for our modern day offspring!

Phew, what a life sir jee?!!!

Yet I remember my mother and grandmother doing this and much more with equanimity( I think) and zest year after year...except for the odd year when a bereavement would force the family into mourning.

This year my mother did not set up her usual Golu, for the above reason, and though mine is up, with the first instalment of photos here for you to see, I question my commitment to the cause, primarily as I struggle from post transfer fatigue( still recovering) and of course minimal maid help( got one to do the mopping and sweeping...yes!). I also view with envy at the wonderful Golu set up by dear ones...check this one out on my friend Anu's blog...done by her Mom. I wish mine looked like that...please imagine it does...till I do post the finished version, tomorrow...

BTW, Navrathri is well on its way, and I have not yet bought the gifts, vethilai pakku, and nor have I invited my ladies over.... so you see how this boat sails....

Yet the best part for me would be the very nice story my daughter suggested we put up, and which got done just last night...

Check it out on my next post....!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bangalore Green Walk

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Sunday Morning: Imagine lazing in bed...time just rolls by...breakfast merges into lunch.....
Sunday Morning: Alarm blasts into your ears. You spring up with a smile on your face, brush and bathe. Not to beat your pace, even the kids are all excited. Brushed and bathed, jackets,walking shoes and water bottles ready.

Yes, I decided to go on the Bangalore Walk with the family last Sunday. Luckily and Happily, my family too shares the same enthusiasm that I have to soak in flora and fauna early morning!

We reached the huge megalithic rock that dominates Lal Bagh, to meet Mr.V. History, dates and facts poured out of him and we lapped it up like kittens.

The megalithic stone is estimated to be at least half the age of the earth!
Hyder Ali who started the Spruce and Cypress garden here, did so on an arid, barren land.
Tipu Sultan was instrumental in importing many new species from all over the world.
The diverse species of trees and plants grow here with no special intervention, and one can find Chinese trees rubbing cheeks with their kin from North America

These are just a few bare facts that I mention here.Many more wonderful observations, stories and facts were thrown into the morning as we walked around Lal Bagh. Looking at trees and plants in a way we have never before.

Mr.V has been doing this on every Sunday for the past 5 years. Fantastic!

The break in between saw us all having some packaged buttermilk/orange juice, Chikki( peanuts in jaggery}, sesame balls rolled in palm sugar and dried figs.

But the finale was break fast at MTR, with their sinful Ghee roast dosa/ masala dosa, Rava idli. Chandrakala and Gulab Jamun for your sweet tooth, and top it up with some degree Kaapi(coffee)!

Tired but replete we returned home to sleep off the Sunday.

Another Storytelling expedition that makes me happy to be one!

Check out Bangalore Walks

Friday, October 1, 2010


Vaguely having heard of this word, Dastangoi, and with a faint idea that it was related to story telling and oral tradition, I booked myself for the show at Chowdiah Memorial Hall.

For those who have not lived in Bangalore, this hall at Malleswaram, Bangalore was and is the cultural hub of traditional art forms. Shaped like a violin, it is named after the erstwhile doyen of violin music, Sangeetha Kalanidhi Mysore T.Chowdiah.

I’ll let you in on a secret. I went alone.
Feeling quite liberated! This has nothing to do with any hang ups about traveling alone or going out at night alone…none at all. This is all what I had been doing before marriage.
Yet there is that childish need to share every thing with the spouse, do things together….well other than watching TV (News /HBO) or having dinner/lunch together, my partner would never budge!!

What I expected was storytellers and telling of course, so it was a moment of sheepishness when I realized I was going to spend the evening in the company of classical Urdu and courtly Hindi!!
A sense of serendipity seized me, as you know I have freshly embarked from the soils of Hindi heartland.
Yet an experience well worth it.

Though I cannot or did not absorb the entire depth of the words, the fascinating stage performance and body language kept me engrossed.
Simple, minimalist décor and white clad storytellers, after all the audience needs to feel he/she has entered a Mehfil.
The Dastan is an epic tale that is told by a Dastango who performs the Dasatngoi.
Tilism-e Hoshruba was the name of the Dastan that was performed on that day. I distinctly remember the Dastango/ director of that day’s Dastan saying that they have finally captured the story into 16 volumes of 1000 pages each. Making it the longest story ever told!

Completely extempore, the Dastango initiates the audience into the storytelling process. The verbosity, the fluency and connect he establishes with the audience was truly inspiring. As true story tellers do he infused some contemporary humour into the story.
I was impressed with the sheer volume of words that poured out of the tellers.
Urdu couplets and dialogues, were interspersed with Hindi explanations, even an illiterate as me could understand and enjoy the imagery of the words and the creativity of the story.
It is the passion that I went to absorb, and so I got. To see creative expression such as this makes me value human spirit, intellect and curiosity.

An art form worth reviving!

Those interested can check out the performance on You tube

and read about their performance at Hyderabad
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