The Joys of Storytelling

The crickets in the bushes have started their chirping, though the last red glow of the setting sun is still lingering in the western sky. Dinner is already over, and the womenfolk are in a hurry cleaning up. The children, impatient as ever, have already ran off towards the village center, not waiting for mother or grandmother. Groups emerge from the houses along the street and move off, excited voices filling the air. The torches lighting their path in the swiftly darkening night all appear to be converging on one point… the village center. This is one night nobody wants to be away from there… yes, the story teller is visiting the village!

This is a scene repeated a million times over in a million villages around the world. The languages will be different, the stories will be different, the people listening will be different… but the enchantment of stories is universal. Every one of the ancient cultures has a story telling tradition, where good fairies and bad witches and folk heroes and sweet damsels all make appearances to charm an enthralled audience for hours together. Many of the classical dance and song forms actually follow the storytelling traditions.
As stories and storytelling largely moved over to printed books and later, to celluloid, the human interaction of the community storytelling is one of the sacrifices we made to the modern life. However, have you noticed the interesting new efforts to revive the storytelling traditions in the modern context?
Foremost among these is The Moth. Anyone listening to NPR even infrequently, will be familiar with The Moth Story Hour, where the stories from Moth stages are repeated on the radio. The Moth is a not-profit organisation dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Events are held at various parts of the country and abroad. Anyone can pitch a tale and selected stories are narrated in front of a live audience. People from various walks and stages of life participate in the event. The stories are as varied as the people who tell them, and of course they are very interesting.
Interesting in the sense that they will make you laugh, think, sympathise… even teach you something new, often all at the same time. I listen to them on the radio and have been thinking of attending one of The Moth StorySlams, an open-mic storytelling competition held in New York every week. One of these days… maybe even participate. 🙂
Another storytelling effort is StoryCorps, an oral history project, run by an independent non-profit organisation. Participants – there has to be two, as it is recorded as interviews – go to the StoryCorps booths and record the conversation. These conversations are preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Since 2003, StoryCorps has recorded and archived 45,000 conversations. You can listen to a sampling of these conversations here.
Did you know that a National Storytelling Festival takes place in Jonesborough, Tennessee every year, during the first full weekend of October? It is conducted by the National Storytelling Network, dedicated to advancing the art of storytelling. It is a three day outdoor festival, with storytellers from all over the world participating and an estimated audience of over 10,000.
The National Storytelling Network conducts events all over the country, showcasing storytelling. Here is a calendar of events, in case you want to check them out.
Happy storytelling/ listening!


29 Jul 2014

Technology and I: Past and Future

Technology became an important part of my life the day my mom brought home a computer for her work. This was while I was in high school. Though it was meant for her, I was at the computer most of the time, playing games. Suddenly, the world of gaming took my fancy with the Prince of Persia, Dangerous Dave, and Duke Nukem becoming my heroes in real life. I was thoroughly fascinated by their superpowers and their abilities to sprint and fly. Those were the good old days of DOS games, which I still miss.

Then, came the Windows-based games like Minesweeper and Solitaire, which always kept me pre-occupied in between classes or on boring assignment days. I was comfortable using the computer and was interested in learning to use more programs. So, I worked at becoming proficient in the Microsoft suite and also, dabbled in using the graphic design tools.

Another major encounter with technology took place when I got my car. It was a Maruti Suzuki 800. Driving an automobile made me aware of the mechanics of engineering products. My fascination towards cars grew. I loved driving my car and taking care of it. I used to particularly enjoy taking it to the garage for servicing and listening to the mechanic’s assessment of its condition. ‘Trudy’ was the apple of my eye and received a lot of attention and care.

These days, an iPod and a cell phone are integral parts of my handbag…the way technological gadgets have become indispensable to all of us. The Android mobile phone I carry is a prime example of technological advancement as I can not only make and receive calls and text messages but also surf the Internet, check e-mails, use the GPS functionality, and watch high-definition videos on my phone.

Over the past two decades, telecommunications technology has evolved from standalone voice and data communication to image, video, and multimedia, providing a communication backbone to our society. Wired and wireless communication has converged for this integrated system, leaving transmission cables extraneous and redundant. This gives way to a cheaper, more efficient way for exchange of information and data.

Ex-IBM CEO, Louis Gerstner, had once predicted that computing capabilities will be embedded in everything from clothes and wall paints all the way to big robots and apparatus.

Currently, we have an abundant number of devices and applications directed towards keeping in touch with our fellow human beings. Social media like Facebook and Twitter connect our lives, interminably, with others. We no longer go to bookshops or buy newspapers; the online subscription newsletters and the e-book readers like Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad, present us with the latest dose of news, staying within the comforts of our homes.

I believe the future lies in an all-Internet Protocol (IP) network, a single network on which everything travels as interleaved streams of IP packets, where you can use the same device to control all your electronic equipment within your home and workplace, backed by a smooth flow of IP traffic.

This next generation network technology constitutes an amalgam of Internet technologies and telecom infrastructure, accompanied by Long Term Evolution (LTE), a standard in high-quality wireless communication.

My technological wishlist would definitely contain an Apple home theater system since I am completely gaga about movies and I believe Apple makes the best computer hardware and software.

08 Jul 2014