There was a time when nights were the best time of the day — when a dreamy world opened its eyes and magic came to sit by our bedside as a story-telling session unfolded itself.

Move over grandma’s story-telling sessions as theatre actors and audio-books do the talking

here was a time when nights were the best time of the day — when a dreamy world opened its eyes and magic came to sit by our bedside as a story-telling session unfolded itself. We heard stories from our grandparents that went on to live on in our hearts. The magic continues,except now,when there’s been now a role-reversal and the story has moved from the bedside to a birthday party,a library,a literary get-together,the gym and even the car. The grandma may have had her share of attention while reading out Little Red Riding Hood and Snowhite stories,but now its all about trained theatre actors and audio books doing the talking. Some stories never go out of fashion,they just acquire new avatars.

Like booksTalk,a company of audiobooks according to which — story telling is back. Started last year in Bangalore by IIM Kolkata graduates,Jai Zende and Jayashree Easwaran,the idea was to bring back the vividness of the imagery related to story-telling. The two found a way to make listening to a story an enjoyable experience. “We decided we’re going to make people listen to stories all over again,’’ says Zende,adding that they also do books in Hindi. “Many of us have not learnt our mother tongue well enough to read a book writtten in it,but we can understand if a story is read to us,’’ says Easwaran,who grew up in Kolkata.

The stories are narrated by theatre people to add a dramatic element and Zende,who knows nine languages,recalls how overwheleming the recording experience was when stories like Kabuliwallah and Tagore’s Streer Potro were being read. He explains that a 200-page book can be about six to seven hours in length,and to keep track,they have figured a way to put it in a single disc that plays on any CD player and an M4B format for phones and IPods. He has already released nine books on tape in various categories including two volumes of Tagore’s short stories in Bengali. He is planning on releasing five books in Kannada too.


At this year’s Jaipur Literary Festival,poet,writer and translator Nirupama Dutt narrated mini stories to the audiences. She did this by using absorbing incidents from the lives of poets like Bulleh Shah,Lal Singh Dil,while touching several new facets of their lives via story. “The sessions had everyone glued. Frankly,it is better to tell a story than to read it out,’’ says Dutt,adding that the oral tradition of story-telling in Punjabi continues to date and comes from the tradition of Katha.

“The 21st century will be the age of the story-teller and there’s so much to hear,’’ says Dutt,who adds that in these times,when television,computers and technology have taken over our lives with plummeting attention span,hearing a story helps the mind create its own images,making it work creatively.

Poems,riddles,songs,dance,puppets and a story — Shiraz Saini has her little ones wide-eyed as she spins a yarn of an apple tree to be cut. The facilitator and language coordinator at Coveda,a pre-school,she loves these sessions for she believes that they help get the attention of children. “They begin to love reading,listening,creating new vocabulary and a love for magic. Dramatising and enacting the story is vital,creating suspense and moods,’’ says Saini,who works with various age groups.

A story introduces the culture of its people,believes Poonam Singh,who has been telling stories for as long as she can remember. A trained theatre artist,she devised her own intimate way of narrating stories to a large audience,both children and adults. Picking up stories from Punjabi,Hindi,Urdu and English and voice modulating them,Singh says. “Story-telling is such a creative,economical and easy way to involve people creatively,especially people who don’t read. I don’t like anything disturbing my story,be it bright visuals,loud music or too much activity,” says the 53-year-old Singh.

55-year-old Pradeep Dutt,who teaches creativity and innovation in management schools says,“Story-telling is not just for literary or artistic purposes,but for life skills too.” We are listening.