July 5, 2019 12:34:57 am
In her storytelling session last Sunday at the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla, Sherline Pimenta told her audience — a mix of children and adults — that there are close to 400 mangoes available in the Indian market. She also spoke about the fact that India’s favourite fruit is at the heart of the famous Ekambareshwar temple in Tamil Nadu. On the outset, these may sound like mundane facts compiled from the internet but when the 39-year-old storyteller takes a session, she does not merely lecture about her chosen topic. “…Ekambareshwar temple in Kanchipuram is dedicated to Shiva. It’s said that after Sati’s demise, Shiva didn’t want to marry again. So Parvati did her penance under a mango tree, which is also where the two eventually got married. This tree sits in the compound of the Ekambareshwar temple and has four different varieties of mangoes growing on it. Now, in fact, this may have been grafting at some point but the perceived divinity of the tree allows for drama, which I use for my storytelling,” explains Pimenta.
The founder of Kathanika, a “professional service” focussed on storytelling, Pimenta educated herself in visual arts, psychology, history, and sociology.
“It wasn’t a profession I had considered at the time; I merely took up subjects I found interesting and decided to see where it takes me,” she explains. She encountered the possibility of turning into a professional storyteller after a friend, who was exploring teaching of science through comic books, asked her to help with pilot testing. “I started to enjoy the mixing of facts with the fun part of the subject and people encouraged me to take it up,” she says.
But it wasn’t until her older son, now five years old, got her to tell stories for a ‘bring-your-parent-to-school- day’ that she decided to turn professional. Pimenta has, since, turned a professional storyteller and her audience comprises both adults and children. She works with a school in Pune and was recently in Mumbai for a few sessions at the international airport, which is hosting a Maharashtra festival for the travellers. “Through stories, I was highlighting the vibrant culture of Maharashtra and towards the end, the participants got to paint the Kolhapuri topi, which they could take back with them,” she points out.
Pimenta always includes an activity in her storytelling sessions because “it ensures that the participant is invested”. However, the stories are supported with extensive research that she puts into each of her subjects. For example, she spent a year studying flowers before starting sessions on the topic. When the topic of bees came up, Pimenta spent months interacting with the professors at the Central Bee Research Institute in Pune, studying honeycombs, bee harvesting, and related subjects. “Once that process is complete, I find myths, folklores and fairytales that revolve around the subject to find magic in the mundane,” she adds.
Sherline Pimenta’s Mango-lore
* It is believed that the first time mangoes, originally an Indian fruit, travelled out of the country through Alexander’s army.
* There is a story according to which mangoes were not originally from India but Lanka. When Hanuman went to Lanka, he sat on a mango tree and tried the fruit, which he liked. Since he couldn’t bring back the seed, he set it afloat in a river stream and the current washed it ashore in India.
* According to one of the stories, mango is referred to as ‘aamraphal’ in the Vedas. As the term travelled south, it became ‘mamre’ and then ‘manga’, which is what it’s called in Malayalam and Tamil. Unable to pronounce ‘manga’, the ortuguese started to call it mango.
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