CHENNAI: It was 8.30 in the night when an old couple boarded Nikhil Vyaas’ train. Unlike other night journeys, this one was hardly silent. To the lulling rock of the train, for four hours, he heard the life story of the 80 something-year-olds, who were still earning their own coin, despite educating their now-settled children. “Yeppovume mathavanga mela depend panna koodathu,” the woman replied when Nikhil asked, “If you had to give me just one life advice, what would it be?”
The Coimbatore-based entrepreneur often does this — strike up a conversation, listen to stories of people he meets, and ask for one piece of advice. “The way I see it, I can go forward in life learning from my mistakes or from the stories of others who are much more experienced. As a human, let’s say you make 50 mistakes in your lifetime. But, if you speak to 10 people who each narrate to you one mistake they have made, you can save yourself from the same mistakes,” he explains.
He shares these life learnings with the world through his podcast Tamil Storyteller. His year-old podcast consists of episodes of 5-7 minutes in the regional language, featuring human interest stories with a mission to inspire. Why such short episodes, I ask, to which he responds, “For work, I used to give motivational talks that were an hour long and they didn’t go very well. That’s when I introduced simple stories in them with which people could relate and promptly came to the conclusion that people were more interested in the five-minute story than they were in the rest of the session. So, I decided to present just the masala of the content.”
Nikhil started his podcast last June to keep himself busy during the pandemic. Initially, he would choose stories from the lives of popular, inspirational figures — Abraham Lincoln, Savitribai Phule, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Arunachalam Murugantham and more — but transitioned into real-life accounts of the everyday person in a few months. “Generally, sportspersons and celebrities gain a lot of attention in media, while social workers and entrepreneurs who make an impact rarely do. I realised that the stories of known figures from books will give me limited sources. So, I began sharing stories from real life, of people I met. There are so many people and everyone has a story to tell,” Nikhil narrates.
These stories have — despite a slow start — gained a loyal audience of over 75 thousand people in more than 70 countries, including India, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The response has been very encouraging for Nikhil, who shares, “Whenever I was delayed in posting my episodes, I would get a lot of messages on Instagram and they motivated me to keep going.”
At the end of the day, as the podcast name suggests, it is all about the stories and the audio medium is a great option to engage in tales, according to Nikhil. “You may watch videos when you are free, but you listen to audio when you are driving, at work, cooking, etc, ” he explains the technical reason and concludes, “Everyone loves a good story, whether they are five years old or 50. I appeal to people to start getting into stories. If you want to become a leader, impress a partner, or make a sale, everything requires a good story. And not just any story, but practical stories that can impact a person. So, listen to stories and better yet, share them further.” ‘Tamil Storyteller’ is available on Spotify.