The art of telling stories comes from the privilege of growing up with grandparents and great-grandparents at home, who were storytellers, says actor and storyteller Mithila Palkar. Unlike today's generation, who have access to i-pads while eating, their meal was never completed without parents and grandparents telling them several stories, she shares.
Palkar shares that she only learnt the art of wording her thoughts when compelled by her grandmother.
"If I used to get stubborn about something for example, and start crying about something my grandmother would say stop crying and use your words and tell me what is wrong. These are things that kind of help us word our thoughts. And then, of course, bettering our language and everything comes over time comes with age and experience," she says.
"I say this from a place of privilege as my grandparents gave us the privilege to just say what we thought was and not just mull over or cry over it because then you can find the solution to what our problem is."
The art of storytelling is hence not learnt but passed on from one generation to another, believes poet and storyteller Priya Malik.
"For instance, my first memories of storytelling are from my dad. My dad used to sit me and my sister down and he used to tell us stories like Ek badha sa bhalu tha jungle me (there used to be a big bear in the jungle). My mom also used to make a guest appearance in the story at the end. And it is a story that my dad had made up. That's how it started and we would get dad to tell us the same story over and over again because of the sheer joy of being able to listen to a story," Malik shares.
Children spend most of their time at home or school or with friends. So, either they listen to the stories told by their family members or share their stories with their friends. This is how they learn to express themselves at a very young age and the culture should be encouraged, believes Malik.
"I think in all of these settings if we encourage storytelling as a source of joy, not necessarily as a subject. I think it will automatically lead to more storytellers. It will also lead to people being more open, honest and vulnerable with their stories. And I think that that is important," Malik says.
We are all made of stories we listen to and tell. So, reading to the little ones when they sleep or encouraging them to read is also one of the ways to encourage them. Instead of handing them I-pads or exposing them to television, it is better to make them read or listen to podcasts. This way, they can give wings to their imagination.
"I remember as a child, my most important possession was my imagination. And storytelling encourages just that. Storytelling allows you to feel for characters you wouldn't be or maybe even meet. I read out my first poem to my dad at 13 and I definitely see how that made me able to express myself and enjoy being a character in my own story than be a third person narrator to my life," says artist and storyteller Kareema Barry, who is performing a piece about family, legacy and the things that connect us beyond life and death.
Asked how she pens her poetries and stories, Malik shares that the best stories come from the most honest experiences of who we are.
"So it has to come from something that you feel very passionately about. It can be anything in your life. And if you see passionately about loving relationships, you write about love and relationships. If you feel passionate about mental health, you write about mental health. It has to be something that you deeply resonate with. And obviously, it has to come from your life. It has to come from your thoughts. It has to come from your opinions," she says.
And children are the most honest individuals as they speak what's in their minds without a filter. So, they are innate storytellers, believes Palkar. All they need is some encouragement.
"Simply listening to a child does it - they have so many stories! They just need an earnest audience for that encouragement," says Barry.