BANGALORE: A professional storyteller and co-founder of The Storywallahs, Shreya Biswas helps children with special needs learn better through her stories. Earlier a part of Children's Little Theatre, she quit teaching in 2011 to pursue her passion. City Express finds out more about her -
When did you take up storytelling?
I was a teacher, and I turned professional storyteller in 2011. But I've been telling stories from long before that. Don't we all?
I fell in love with Bengali stories as a child. My first experience with English stories was in school, when a remarkable teacher narrated to my class a story that left me mesmerised. I went to her later, and asked her the name of the book, and she told me- 'King Lear.' It took a few years before I would read Shakespeare myself, but that's when my journey with stories began.
What do you love best about telling stories?
I love everything about storytelling, the reading and research that goes into it, and even the props. But the most enjoyable part of storytelling to me, is the telling itself. Watching children enchanted by the story and seeing their enjoyment is what I love best.
How do you think storytelling can change the education system we have at present?
Learning in our current education system involves too much rote learning. The pressure of exams affects even young children and there is no fun element. As a result, I feel creativity suffers as well. Stories have a great role to play. They not only add an enjoyable element to the classroom, they also help in keeping the kids interested. Stories are great ice-breakers, and they help in overcoming personal limitations and inhibitions.
Tell us about your work with special children. What is their response to stories?
I volunteer at Spastic Society and Baldwin Opportunity School. Though they have speech and learning defects, their enthusiasm for stories is amazing! They get excited and they attempt to tell stories too! Sometimes, five kids come up and 'share' one story, which they narrate. I tell them themed stories sometimes, to get them to understand concepts like parts of the body or colour better. In my experience, it has positive long-term effects. They learn more quickly and can repeat what they were taught much more easily.
Where do you get your stories from?
I make up some stories on my own, themed ones, particularly. As for the rest, Indian and Western literature are both rich sources. Folk tales are my personal favourites.
Your favourite author?
It's impossible to pick just one. But as a Bengali, Tagore is in my blood!
Storytelling is my preferred pastime, and to my luck, it's my profession as well. Apart from that, I dabble in writing. I love music and play the sitar.
What inspires you?
I would say the children I work with are my biggest inspiration. It's so heartening to see the changes in them. Their love and affection are impossible to explain. It makes storytelling a delightful experience.