To revive the tradition of grandma’s tales

Published: 14th November 2016 12:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th November 2016 04:06 AM   |  A+A-


Janaki Sabesh at the story telling session

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Have you ever heard a tale about a mouse trapped inside a kozhukattai? Do your eyes widen on hearing of a lion being tempted by idli-sambar? It may seem like nonsense to you, but as far as tales go, these will make you sit up, guffaw, and sit wide-eyed in anticipation. This was the scene as kids of all ages sat together to watch actress and storyteller, Janaki Sabesh perform her tales as part of Bak-Bak with Karadi tales, held at Starmark Stores in Phoenix MarketCity recently.

In her characteristic fashion, Janaki regaled the children with her stories ‘Kutty and the Mouse’ and ‘The Lion’s Feast’, both from the Karadi Tales stable. With her funny quips and jovial nature, Janaki won over the tiny tots who responded with equal enthusiasm to her antics!
 Janaki, who has a storytelling programme known as Golpo, is currently taking Karadi Tales across several centres in the city. “My child grew up with my stories, and I in turn grew up listening to stories from my grandmother. But today all these children have a smartphone in their hands. There has to be some connect with your children!” The kids maintained a pin-drop silence during Janaki’s performance, even when at a certain point the lights went off! “It doesn’t matter as long as you get the children involved. You need to improvise a lot, and not let yourself get intimidated by them.”

The session involved not just engaging the kids but also the parents, who she adds have more inhibitions and are more hesitant to involve themselves. “More than once, I’ve had a mother come to me and say that she enjoyed the performance as much as her child did! There is still a big draw towards storytelling, and I don’t receive this kind of gratification from anything else I do, no matter how many movies or web series’ I’m part of,” she says. She also elaborates, saying that depending on the response she can add more elements to it the next time she performs.

 “The question of the takeaways from storytelling is almost rhetorical right now, since the one-on-one interaction that the child has with anyone telling them a story,” said Shobha Vishwanath, founder of Karadi Tales who was also present during the performance. “Earlier there was a grandmother in the house who used to regale children with tales, and then it became a nuclear family where parents found lesser time for children. The idea of somebody sitting with them and telling them a story isn’t mainstream anymore. What are the takeaways? Language, values, fun, humour— even irreverence!

Lots of smaller cities are taking to storytelling as a noveau way of education for children. “Karadi Path is the services part of Karadi Tales that takes the books and has created a dynamic language pedagogy with it, which is offered to schools as well as people who do not have access to an environment that facilitates language learning in English,” adds Shobha. “This immersive method can help children who didn’t know to speak a single word speaking fluent, conversational English.”
Though the Karadi Tales titles are also available in Tamil and Hindi, Shobha says that since English is the language of aspiration, especially for higher education, it is the main focus of the books for now. “But one has to take care that while introducing one language in a region, it shouldn’t be at the cost of displacing another language; that care has to be taken.”


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