The Lost Art of Story Telling

We watch movies, we read story books but how many of us, even today, indulge in story telling or listening as it was done when we were kids?
When I hear the term ‘Storytelling’, all I can think of is late nights on the swing with granny narrating stories to me. If you belong to a generation where your parents or grandparents told you stories every night, consider yourself very lucky. And I’m talking about ‘telling’ a story; not ‘reading’ it out from a book. When granny told me a story, it was from memory. It was animated. It was engaging. And never did she repeat a story.

I know most of the popular stories like the ‘Hare and the Tortoise’ or the ‘Dog and the Bone’ by listening, not by reading or watching movies.

When we watch movies, we relate to the characters. We find ourselves in a parallel universe. The film-maker is portraying a story. But he/she is showing it, not telling it.
The art of ‘Storytelling’ refers to oral and aural communication. It is an activity in which both the speaker and the listener are actively engaged.

Story telling allows us to immerse ourselves in what is happening and helps remember characters and incidents easily. That is why a history class in which the teacher tells you a story from India’s freedom struggle, gives you goose bumps rather than watching a digital presentation of the same on a white board.
Research shows that story telling is advantageous, especially for children as it plays a role in language development and speech. Not just cognitive development but listening to stories also improves imagination (you don’t see what others have created), patience (to sit and wait for the story to unfold), respect (listening without interrupting) and empathy (feeling for the characters); something that machines cannot inculcate. Probably this is why for centuries; knowledge has been passed down orally.

With the advent of technology, the ‘Voice’ of the story teller is being neutralized. There are tons of DVDs and audio books available in the market and although these are a great way to continue listening to stories, they do not have the same impact on the mind and heart as a live story telling session.
We sometimes come across people who have the ability to engage a large group of people with their talk. Story tellers have always had this gift. They are able to infuse stories with enthusiasm and make the listener feel every emotion that the characters experience. If you have heard or narrated the story of a film to your friends, you will realize how difficult it is to be coherent, chronological, lucid yet enthralling. Not everyone can become a story teller and with the practice of storytelling becoming obsolete, story tellers are losing their work.

Trying to keep the lost art of storytelling alive; libraries, book clubs, literary societies and writers around the world have been organizing story telling sessions for adults and children where you get a chance to sit and listen to stories.
I love reading books and I am a big movie buff; but each medium has its own place. I would love to sit and listen to someone tell stories the way granny did. Would you?

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