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’.
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.