Storytelling is the oldest type of instructing. Besides enhancing literacy expertise, this oral custom varieties a baby’s curiosity and creativeness, cultural understanding, social expertise and focus. In a rustic as various as India, storytelling, in its varied varieties, is among the first avenues in serving to protect our heritage and historical past. And languages play an vital position in this too.
Mumbai-based Shikha Dalmia (39), a mom of two who began Spin a Yarn (SaY) in 2018 together with her mother-in-law, Madhurata, discovered that a number of the instances, sources to entry tales in native languages have been restricted.
“I’m a Marwari, and my husband is Maharashtrian. So my family is quite multicultural. When I wanted to teach my kids Hindi and Marathi, I found that the resources available failed to showcase these languages in their purest forms. Even Hindi here has evolved to become very ‘Mumbai-centric’. The Hindi we speak in the North and the one we speak here are completely different,” Shikha tells The Better India.
Madhurata Deshmukh (67) started narrating tales to her grandchildren in Marathi, so they might construct their grasp over the language. “These are stories we have all grown up hearing, but she would always add her own twists to them. The children wouldn’t find these tales anywhere else,” Shikha says.
When Madhurata went to the US, for round 5 months, Shikha’s youngsters started lacking these tales terribly. As a passing suggestion, Shikha requested her mother-in-law to file herself narrating these tales and ship them throughout to her. “My mother-in-law’s stories helped my kids familiarise themselves with words they hadn’t even learned in school yet. Sometimes, even the teachers were in awe of certain words they used, which they wouldn’t expect these kids to know,” she says.
On Madhurata’s return, the 2 ladies sat to debate the optimistic modifications they have been seeing in the youngsters’s language expertise. This expertise gave start to SaY, a web-based storytelling platform that calls upon narrators of various cultures to learn out youngsters’s tales in the 22 languages recognised by the Indian structure.
Preserve, shield, promote
“I thought there must be so many women, like my mother-in-law, who are so learned and have such a strong grasp over their native language but don’t have many options to express themselves. I wanted to amplify their voices in a way that these languages can be preserved, protected, and promoted,” she says.
Shikha says that tales narrated by elders shaped a big a part of the experiences and recollections of her era, one thing that she finds is lacking right now. “Obviously, modernisation and nuclear families have led to this shift but there must exist a balance that keeps a generation rooted in their culture. People want English as their primary mode of communication, but this often leads to kids feeling embarrassed to use their native tongue these days. As we grow older, we look for something that offers us familiarity and comfort. And there’s nothing better than your own culture to fall back on,” she says.
The similar sentiment is echoed by 85-year-old Rama Kejriwal from Rajasthan, one in every of SaY’s oldest narrators, who tells youngsters slokas and tales in Sanskrit and Hindi. “The biggest problem we elders face is that unfortunately, we don’t get a chance to pass on our learnings and experiences to younger generations, especially our grandchildren. Everyone is so busy these days that they have little time to sit down and enjoy stories the old fashioned way. But through SaY, I get the opportunity to reach out to different children,” she tells The Better India.
‘Stories are like khichdi’
SaY started with round 8-10 narrators, who have been all Shikha’s prolonged members of the family or pals. “We posted a few audio recordings and videos, and I shared it with my friends,” Madhurata says, including, “They loved it, and said they wanted to show these videos to their grandchildren, and asked if I would do more. I said, ‘Of course, I would love to, but why don’t you do it too?’”
Today, SaY has round 120 narrators, who come from all spheres of life to relate their tales to youngsters. They don’t come right here for any financial features however purely for his or her love of tales and language.
The tales on SaY are a mixture of already-existing tales and new ones that the narrators want to introduce. “I always say — stories are like khichdi. Every house has its own variation and way to make it. So even on our platform, every story has a different twist or version that’s offered by the narrator,” Shikha says.
Madhurata says that whereas tales in native languages may be accessible on YouTube, they’re principally in animated kind, and have horrible grammar. SaY helps youngsters hear tales in the purest type of the language. With the numerous psychological and academic advantages of storytelling, what elevates this expertise is the presence of an aged determine, who is commonly a smart, discovered grandparent including a way of heat and luxury to the kid’s studying course of.
“My mother-in-law narrates this story called Chal Re Bhoplya Tunuk Tunuk, which is a Marathi tale. This version was written for her by her own mother, some 60 to 70 years ago, which you won’t find anywhere else,” Shikha provides. The platform has over 3,500 such tales as of now.
SaY — past storytelling
“Currently, we narrate stories in 22 languages, and aim to cover around 70-75 by February 2021,” Shikha says, including, “We also keep in mind that every region or area has their own version or dialect when it comes to a language.”
For this cause, SaY can also be working with over 600 public faculties in Mumbai for his or her Read Aloud mission. Here, the mother and father are inspired to learn tales out loud to youngsters in their respective native languages. Sometimes, they gown up in the apparel of their respective states so as to add to the expertise. “When you read aloud to children, there’s more room for them to be able to express themselves with you, as opposed to what they would do while reading alone. It leads to more discourse,” Shikha says.
SaY has additionally partnered with the Government of India’s Bhasha Sangam to advertise regional languages. In 2019, which the United Nations declared the Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019), it was the one Indian organisation to companion with UNESCO to protect these languages.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the platform noticed a rise in the variety of narrators and youngsters. “Many people shed their inhibitions, in terms of fear of facing an audience or being sceptical of the internet as a safe space for kids, and came to join our platform,” Shikha says. SaY additionally distributed dongles amongst underprivileged children, in order that they, too, may have entry to those tales on-line. Through donations, and contributions from family and friends, Shikha was capable of elevate Rs 9 lakh for this endeavour, all of which was invested in direction of this trigger.
Shikha’s 9-year-old daughter, Anaya can also be an energetic member on the storytelling platform. Shikha says, “We gave her this book called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. When she read it, she was disappointed that there were only two Indian women in it. At the time, she was also learning some basics about gender disparity in her school and was quite disheartened by the lack of awareness of how much women in Indian history have achieved.”
That is how they began the Daughters of India mission. The programme started with Anaya recording quick episodes on highly effective ladies which have made an impression all through historical past. She finds the story of how Rani Lakshmibai fought a battle with a child on her again to be probably the most inspirational. “I have recorded 8 out of the 12 episodes so far,” she tells The Better India.
While the podcast started with simply Anaya, round 22 extra children, each girls and boys, have since joined in.
For Madhurata, the perfect half about narrating tales is arising with new concepts and introducing new ideas to the tales for the youngsters. She says her favorite tales to relate is that of how Krishna would steal butter, principally as a result of it’s Anaya’s favorite. “Every night, I told her a different version of how his mother would hide the butter and how he and his friends would then find it. Anaya’s friends also used to come to listen to these stories and we’d all enact it out loud,” she says.
Meanwhile, Rama says narrating tales on SaY provides her a sense of immense satisfaction and accomplishment. “Today, as I see my grandchildren grow and lose their ability to talk in their mother tongue, it saddens me. I hope that SaY India can capture the voice of our generation so that our future generations can benefit. Hopefully, the children can learn one or two things from my stories and talks, and use it to better their lives. ” she says.
Many such tales exist on SaY’s platform. Shikha’s endeavour has neatly tied in two separate generations below one ambit — significant storytelling. The elders, with all their sage knowledge, have discovered a method to categorical the tales that bind our historical past, and the youngsters have discovered a method to embrace native languages amid the fast-moving and ever-changing trendy world.
Shikha sums up SaY’s efforts in one sentence. She says, “Spin a Yarn is on a mammoth mission to preserve the magical fairytales and cultures of India.”
To hear the tales which might be bringing younger youngsters nearer to India’s many languages, you possibly can go to Spin a Yarn’s website.
Edited by Yoshita Rao