House of Stories : Kathalaya Bangalore

Geeta Ramanujam, founder of  Kathalaya Bangalore has been telling stories for the last three decades.



She has a interesting story to tell about her beginnings:

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in June 1998, it rained heavily.
Three teachers hurried to take shelter under a grand old banyan tree. The rain didn’t seem to stop.
At first it was a casual chat about the weather and childhood memories of the rain.
And later the conversation drifted towards the concerns relating to education.
Why is teaching a monotonous exercise? What really makes the child interested in a subject?
Do we have a role to play? There was a pause. Why not storytelling?
Can we as teachers make a difference to evolve a more exciting curriculum, through stories?
Can we extend it to the underprivileged children, in the same manner?
The rain had stopped and the questions seemed endless.
The banyan tree stood witness to a new thought process evolving under its shade.
And that was just the beginning of a long journey…
Over the next few months, the group met more frequently to crystallize their thoughts into action.
They called themselves ‘Kathalaya ~ The House of Stories’.

Geeta Ramanujam, kathalaya_main_large1


Tell us of an interesting custom of your region:
It is a custom to wash the front porch early in the morning and decorate with Kolam (Rangoli in Hindi, which is a form of painting that is drawn using rice powder/chalk). This wards off insects from coming into the house and it is also offered as food for them. It also signifies something auspicious, as an offering to the sun God.

How did you become a storyteller?
My parents told me stories – so did my grandmother and my great grandmother. But I heard a story from the Western world specifically about the History of the World from my father in English (he got a medal for English) and from my mother I heard the proverbial and religious myths in the Tamil Language (my native language).

I then became a teacher and had to teach History and English to children, which inadvertently I taught through stories…

What is so magic about storytelling?

The immediate connection it gives between people and the fact that stories are so primal in their form, as it is often the basic instinct and emotions which cross cultural codes, and connect anyone at the humanitarian level. Thus making it so healing. It can trigger and pore through the listener’s heart and soul. When storytelling spontaneously tunes into the listener’s request it transports them completely into the teller and the story. It is also the space that is created between the teller and listener which flows beautifully to support the story.




What is your favourite story?
I love myths, stories of transformation, the golden crane and The Mountain that Loved a Bird.

Tell us an anecdote from a journey that you will never forget?

There are so many, but one happened when I cwas over in Edinburgh in 2010 for the Storytelling Festival, and I was narrating the story from the Indian myths about Narasimha – the half-Man, half-Lion animal incarnation of God.

A Shaman Storyteller in attendance said his hair stood on end, and he showed me a photograph he had taken up a hill in Scotland a few years previous, and the photo showed exactly the description of the God from the Indian myths. My hair stood on end too because I was worried about sharing an Indian myth in Scotland, which is rich with its own legends, yet this seemed to be the answer, blowing in the wind of Scotland…

Perhaps everything has a reason and I sent the scanned photograph all over India with this story.

If you could start a journey tomorrow – either real or imaginary – where would you go and who/what would you bring with you?

I’d love to travel across the Silk Road with my husband.

People should come and listen to your stories/music because…

they can relax, heal, identify, forget themselves and be themselves while transporting  their souls into another land of stories.




Whats’ a Good Story?





A story  needs  to connect with the audience if it is  to be taken seriously.

A story is   “an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment”

So according to Steve if the narrative is not   entertaining or engaging its not a story. He has some tips for storytellers on how to craft a story.

First of all stories are told to humans and the story teller need to find out what triggers them to laugh, cry and smile.

Secondly we know that some ones background influences the way they react to a situation so- the background or socio cultural profile need to figured out to tell stories that make people react.

Its then that a story teller could get into the boots of the audience and tickle them with imagination.

These principals apply to stories told around the fire place aswell as postings on the face book as well as for the digital story clip on you tube.

People will consume an share stories that resonate wioth them. In modern day story telling shareing has a big role to play and people need to first of all like a story to the extent that they are convinced that someone like them will enjoy by receiving the story.

 About Storytelling

Getting your format correct is important if the story could be told in a line a Tweet or SMS would be excellent on the other hand if a single picture or a collection of stills would do the job flicker or face book post would do the job.If the visuals need to be stringed up and weaved into a story the you tube style. Clip is still the obvious choice. A quick teaser would be best done with Instagram.

Interactivity plays a important role in getting the audience hooked to the story.Instedof telling the story of the snow white and the dwarfs from the beginning to the end  wouldn’t it be more engaging to  use images, maps sounds and text and allow the audience to figure out the story. Such approach will enable the audience to experience the joys and sorrows and thrills expericed by the dwarfs themselves.

At the end of the day a good digital story is all about how the audience feels about what has been said in story form. The feel develops around connections that evolve around a story. A good story creates multiple points where the audience could connect to it.



Dakshina Nirmalani is Director of Digital Craft,Singapore

Tamils in Sri Lanka

alarm clock

Chilli Mango has been silent for a moment but the digital story tellers in South Asia  have been passionately shearing there stories.

So now we have to play catch up and please join in with your stories mean while we will up date you with what has been going on in South Asia and elsewhere.

The Story of Tamils


The people of Sri Lanka have been victims of a brutal 30 year war . The vast majority of  Tamils as well as the Sinhalese never asked for this war but they have had to suffer the consequence of this bitter experience.

The  Guns have been silenced  for the momenta and tears role down the cheeks of many  while silent payer blends to the drum beat of the temple.



matthew allard





Matthew Allard

Matthew Allard, an award-winning cameraman based out of Kuala Lumpur, has 20 years experience filming and editing TV new was in Colombo and he captured the pain,sorrow  and hope of the Tamil people .It is a beutiful piece of story telling that blends light, color and visuals of real people in to powerful story.

Allard’s  work has taken him to more than 30 countries, covering everything from major sporting events to major bombings.He was chosen as Twice Network Ten Australia’s cameraman of the year.

According to him  this video essay was shot on a Canon 7D in 720p 50fps. Lenses used were Canon 16-35mm f2.8 and Canon 50mm f1.2. All shots were either from a Satchler 20P tripod or off the ground.





A story from Kibera emerges in South India

[J]ournalist Erica Hagen and hacker-geographer Mikel Maron discovered that Kibera — the largest informal slum settlement in Africa located in the most densely populated district in Kenya — was all but a small spot on the World Wide Web with a few crime reports attributed to it, they wanted to give the community an opportunity to tell their own story, and be heard.

So they started the Map Kibera project, which engaged with and trained local community members to map geographic information about their lives, their living spaces and lived realities on digital maps, using simple global positioning system (GPS) devices.

An unusual story that finds it way into the Indian newspapers — thanks to The Hindu from South India, a respected newspaper from the region.  Other keywords emerging include: freely editable, Open Street Maps (OSM), to bring communities together, to disseminate information, low-cost balloons and kite-based aerial mapping, crowd sourcing, Cartonama, a workshop on managing location data for location-based services, Bangalore, technology, developing countries, Java Open Street Map, East Jerusalem, Open Source, Wikipedia, Creative Commons License, Google Map Maker, Open, Ushahidi (Swahili for eye-witness or testimony), the Free and Open Source Software platform, SMS, school curriculum.

Villagers, environmental battles, land, resources and cameras…

Villagers and environmental battles. Attempts to take over local resources and cash-in on their worth in international markets. These are old stories. And you can keep hearing them, time and again. For long, the former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India, Goa, has suffered from excessive mining. For long too, the local newspapers were controlled by the mining lobby. This meant, the story seldom got told. Recently things have changed. And how. For a series of different reasons, the now-dominant local newspapers went out of the control of mining first (for the most… it is however true that the “mining lobby” got a grip over the nascent audio-visual, particularly localised television sector). Then, something else happened. Technology became accessible at the grassroots, even in the villages. Artists, in some cases from vast distances away, offered to lend their hand. This was made possible in part by the Net. Resultantly, the New Media (both video and photography) played a big role in making the issue understood at a wider level. The story hasn’t had a happy ending yet, as mining continues unabated. The Chinese hunger for ore (to feed the “global” economy) has made things worse.  But, for the change, the villagers know that their plight cannot be simply ignored as it was in the past. Below are some other links:

There are many more online, if you search… The mainstream media has also begun taking an interest in such issues… even if one could raise questions about consistency.


Dipti Desai :Shooting Essays

  Dipti Desai describes herself as a freelance photographer, living and working in Bangalore.

 She got in to conversation with chillimango while displaying her latest photo essay “Souvenirs” in a book shop located in the busy streets of Kandy, Sri Lanka.

It may  have been more appropriate for Dipti  to describe her self as a poet. Her photographs speak out like poetry, pouring out streams of thought.

Dipti’s photo essays have taken the million pixels embedded in her photography to a new level. She strings together photos brining out complex and complicated inner thoughts.

“Souvenirs”  are expressions of how man retains living artefacts in the shape of potted plants and foliage, sometimes unconscious of the fact that  a few thousand years ago he was living under them. As a result of civilization, he has been able reduce the giant trees in to miniature souvenirs, but he can’t afford to let go those connections and he retains them in a different form.

Presenting Souvenirs Dipti said:

“It’s a series of images delving into the complex yet profound relationship that man shares with plants.

Plants today perhaps tell of man’s longing to unbelong from the spaces that he has created for himself.

Choosing to keep them close to him in environments as these, perhaps speak of the gratification he yearns for.”

 Here are excerpts from  an Interview with Dipti Desai

CM: Why do you select photo esseys as your form of expression?

Dipti: Sometimes a single image says it all.To tell a story, to reiterate, to build a structure, to understand it better for myself, to simply exercise flow or pattern. That’s perhaps some of the reasons why I chose to narrate what I see through a photo essay.

CM: How did you conceptualise souvenirs?

Dipti: Simply put, I have been working on visually representing what and how we, as human beings, relate to the world of plants. Souvenirs happened as an extension of the same.

CM:What about using photography for a social cause?

Dipti: Having worked with organisations involved in social causes for quite sometime now, I do not doubt that photography plays an important role in facilitating social change by helping bring focus on issues.

Images say a lot that words cannot and communicate despite several barriers.

     More on Dipti Desai:

South Asian Digital Story Teller’s Corner