The 20th of March marks the World Storytelling Day and the World Theatre Day for the young Audience. In this regard, Kolkata Storytellers along with Oxford Bookstore Kolkata organised a wonderful session of storytelling for children and their parents. It was an open to all event wherein guests and audiences joined in as the evening progressed.
Kolkata Storytellers is a group formed by professional storytellers. Priyanka Chatterjee, Arpita Nag and Kavita Gupta were the storytellers for the evening. They performed various stories in Hindi, Bangla and English using different props to keep the children engaged and interested. Storytelling is not only an art to express stories through powerful oratory, narration, voice modulation and expressions and gestures; but also an art of involving the audience themselves as important characters in the story. In fact, as Kavita Gupta puts it, “I love stories and I love listening to stories and telling stories. A lot of times I find stories in my audience so I create stories out of that. Stories are a reflection of who we are. I think stories are a nice way of getting them out of their shell.”
The audience comprised of children accompanied by their parents and children from three special institutions- The New Age Society for All, Lions Club of Calcutta Roshni and Anandan. Interestingly, with the presence of special children with their translator, Mangal Patro , the session became all the more memorable as it shattered the traditional barriers of oral storytelling ; and instead brought in glimpses of storytelling through translations for meeting the special needs of the children. According to Arpita Nag, Performance always gives any artist a very big high. But this was more special because when we came around we heard that we had quite a few children who were hearing impaired. Now we do not work with special children, we have not. So we were a little skeptical. But we realized that they were the ones who were responding the most and I was just communicating with them and they said it was excellent and they said Thank You. I think I should thank them in return and it was an amazing experience especially today and we would like to do more such performances.”
The stories were rather engaging and used a variety of props to attract the attention of the children. The various storytelling techniques involved narration, action, involving the audience to be characters in the stories themselves, props denoting the involvement of puppetry in storytelling and the likes. The stories for children ranged from the traditional Monkey and the crocodile to the Ramayana with a twist to a narration of how Lord Buddha colored the world. The highlight of the evening was the story of the Zamindar and the Genie where all the three storytellers shared the stage. Rekha, from Anandan also narrated a self -composed story regarding her newfound best friends. According to her, the entire programme was ‘Khub Bhalo’ (Very Good). Rekha had come on behalf of the NGO where the Share Stories Open Minds project is run by Peaceworks from The Seagull Foundation for the Arts. You can read the full report written by Peaceworks, Program Officer, Paroma Sengupta here.
The event received a very positive response from the audience. According to Swagata Sanyal Lahiri, who accompanied her son to the event, “The event was wonderful. It’s very innovative and for me it was first of a kind. My son enjoyed a lot and that’s what matters as a parent you know.” Kamal, Raja and Amar, spoke to me through their translator and conveyed that they found the programme very entertaining and engaging. According to Tiyasa Biswas, the president of Lions Club of Roshni, “Every student and children out here enjoyed. It’s like portraying the past when our grandma’s used to tell a story. It’s just taking them out and ornamentally presenting them to the students and the children, making them take more interest in the moral stories.” On asking Arpita regarding the future events of Kolkata Storytellers, she replied, “We have events planned up every month. Earthcare and Oxford are our regular venues. We are doing performances at different other places also. This week itself we have many other events planned up. This apart, every month we are looking towards at least three to four sessions in the city.” Thus, if you missed this session, you can always keep a lookout for their next session and enjoy a wonderful time listening to stories and being a part of them.