It was often said in the past that when Bengal sneezed, the rest of the country caught a cold. Now it will soon be said that when Pune walks, the rest of the country follows in its footsteps. And it’s all because of the stories we tell.
Whilst pockets in the country are fostering niche storytelling initiatives such as Acoustic Traditional – originally a Bengaluru-based group who were looking to preserve tribal stories, mainly out of a concern for the loss of these folk narratives due to urbanisation and the lure of electronic entertainment… and others in various parts of the country fostering other localised efforts, storytellers in our city have lofted over differences and struck chords that have numerous cultural implications.
Not very long ago, Gyaan Adab blazed the trail with a story tour and took a solo performance to various parts of the city. The stories came from far-flung places on our planet – from the Native Americans, the Incas, Mayas, Bushmen, the great Norse travellers, the shepherds of the lower Himalayas, the Eskimos, the Indonesians, Balinese, the peoples and a host of others – relived and shared in the language of today, fresh, vibrant, excitingly new. There’s now a film on the tour, The World In A Story, doing the rounds.
Then there’s The Storytellers, coordinated by Peter Viegas. The group has been regaling gatherings in various parts of our city with engrossing tales, artfully told. They meet once a month on the second Sunday at 5 pm at a mutually decided venue – at the moment it is the Poona Club Library. Their first major presentation was Damascus Nights based on the book by Rafik Schami about storytellers and storytelling set in Syria in the 1930s. And now they’re working on A Tale Dark and Grimm which is a takeoff on the stories of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
According to Viegas, “well-told stories can help us to learn about other cultures, ideas and ways of thinking. They can provide opportunities to know how past generations responded to challenges. They can also let us know how new generations are encountering and dealing with similar opportunities or the brand-new challenges they face.”
On another front, is Hemant Baliwala, an interactive storyteller who performs at various formal and informal venues and is associated with the Gurukul School and the Balkalyan Sanstha. He brings alive stories from the past as well as his own original work accompanied by music, poetry and audience involvement. His latest is An Evening With Carpet Sahib… in which he takes you on a story-safari into the jungle and the world of Jim Corbett. In his presentation he collaborates with Djeme artists Khushboo Shah, enlivened by Nehi Jain’s scores.
And there are many others of various hues, gathering audiences around them like growing islands. Storytelling Pune is on the move and it won’t be long before the country follows in our footsteps…
Randhir Khare is an award winning writer, teacher, artist and storyteller who has mentored a whole generation of creative talent. He is Director of Gyaan Adab, Pune’s Premier Cultural Centre. Randhir Khare will write every Wednesday for Pune365.
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