I remember one story my grandmother told us, when we were small. Bedtime stories weren’t in vogue then, when she got time she narrated one, mostly in the evenings. She hadn’t many in her repertoire, a few, which she repeated over and again. We knew she was repeating, but never felt it boring for she changed the places and names of the people in the story.
She sat on a mat, while we snuggled around her. Our village had no electricity then. That modern amenity hadn’t reached anywhere in our village. That didn’t make us feel anything short or missing; unless you know something, you won’t feel its absence as a shortage. We used paraffin lamps that had chimneys to shepherd the smoke away.
Ours was a veranda-browed house. In summer time we sat on the veranda. It opened to a patio, carpeted with a mixture of sand and shiny pebbles. A moss covered, low laterite wall curbed the patio, and beyond the patio spread a lush spice garden. Summer was fiercely hot, so we liked the occasional waves of breeze rushing into our midst, from the paddy field beyond the spice garden. But we didn’t like it when they stormed in like rioters and spluttered the flames in the lamp. Sometimes, they stiffed the flames into weary golden lines, plunging us in darkness. We would yell out cries when grandma held us all together in her soft arms. We had a dog, Nelson. He was with us listening to the story but always sleeping. Hearing our yelling, he would be up on feet barking and sniffing around.
Ok, what was the story she told.
Once upon a time, there lived two girls in a village; Mallika and Renuka. They were friends and lived across the village road. The village road was cobbled and wide. During those days, there were no cars, and people mostly walked. Very rarely a horse cart galloped along it, transporting a rich family. Hearing the horse shoes clapping children from homes rushed on to the road. They liked catching the glimpse of horses.
The road was wide, having plenty trees on both sides. Some trees reached up to the skies. Some of them gave fruits and some shades to the walkers along the road. The villagers had planted them, seeing the walkers in mind.
The villagers were friendly, and kind, and were ready to help each other any time a need arose, except Mallika’s family. They didn’t like others, for no reason. And they made all sorts of troubles to others, like stealing their chicken and vegetables.
One morning, while both the girls were exchanging small talks over their fences, an old lady limped along the road. She carried a big cloth bag, and she was alone. Each time she made a step her face contorted in pain.
Mallika faked limping on one leg and walked imitating the lady, which the lady saw through the fence.
Renuka stepped onto the road and walked to the lady.
‘’I shall carry your bag,’’ She said. The lady heaved a sigh of relief and slipped her bag towards Renuka’s stretched out hand.
”Thank you, ” She said.
Thereafter, the lady limped with ease and in less pain. Renuka held the lady’s hand in her free hand.
‘’Where do you live?’’ She asked.
‘’Down the road, behind the market.’’
Before moving on, Renuka asked Mallika to inform her parents about her mission.
The lady had a well kept home, with neat rooms, an established kitchen and a green garden
When, Renuka was about to leave, after getting the lady settled in her living room, she was invited to stay for lunch.
‘’Why can’t we share lunch? My good maid had already cooked a sumptuous lunch.’’
Three of them ate the lunch together. When Renuka got to leave, the lady took her to an underground room.
‘’You are a kind girl,’ she said, ”I would like to reward you for what you did.’’
Inside the room, boxes were stalked on shelves against one wall.
‘’Touch one, it’s yours.’’ The lady said smilingly.
The boxes ranged from huge to tiny in size. Renuka was not eager to accept a reward for something she did willingly.
‘’I only did a little bit, a reward for that is too much,’’ she said.
‘’Then take it as my present,”
Renuka touched the tiniest box.
At home, Renuka’s parents were waiting for her. They praised her when she narrated how she helped the lady and chose the box.
She was curious about what the box contained, and when she opened it, her eyes were blinded, seeing stalks of gold bars in it.
The news spread out to the entire village, and the villagers were very happy for Renuka.
Mallika was very restless, hearing what Renuka got for helping the lady. He too wanted to get gold; after a few weeks, her hopes were raised seeing a lady limping along the road. She ran to the lady and offered assistance, which the lady accepted.
The whole story repeated with Mallika too, apart from, she did not show any hesitance to accept the box, and she touched the biggest one. She took a lot of trouble to carry it home, for it was very heavy.
At home, her parents were eagerly waiting for her, when Mallika arrived. They opened the box, and ran away for life when snakes crawled out of it.
Why story telling.
Children have a natural liking for story telling, adults too. It’s universal, and has a long history, or perhaps that was how humans started connecting with one another forming the first human group which lead to the formation of a human community. So when we tell story we are reenacting our social history.
We were in single digit ages. At that age, children have no value system, which only develops at later ages. However, the values developed later depend to a great extent on their child hood experiences, and story telling forms part of that experience. How they resolve problem situation, develop language and social skills all depend on their childhood experiences. I can say, in many crossroads in my life, I have made mental references to the characters in the above story and many others I have heard through my grandmother.
Story telling is also a cultural meet and greet. Children are fairly new to this world; story telling introduces them to a lot of new situations already happened in this world.
It’s also a social experience. Gadgets like TV, video, computer, a game etc cannot give them this. It’s not siphoning information from one source to another. The atmosphere, the situation and human care associated with the story telling matters to a great extent. Also listening is inspiring. When children listen to a story, they become good storytellers, which is educational. Also it develops their own literary skills.
Psychologists are taking interest into the psychology of story telling.
Adults also like story telling. Famous motivation talkers are good story tellers too.
The following are some quotes I copied from the above link.
- Storytelling is one of the few human traits that are truly universal across culture and through all of known history. … People in societies of all types weave narratives … And when a characteristic behavior shows up in so many different societies, researchers pay attention: its roots may tell us something about our evolutionary past.
- However narrative is defined, people know it when they feel it. Whether fiction or nonfiction, a narrative engages its audience through psychological realism — recognizable emotions and believable interactions among characters.
- [T]he best stories … captivate their audience, whose emotions can be inextricably tied to those of the story’s characters. Such immersion is a state psychologists call “narrative transport”.
- [M]ost scientists are starting to agree: stories have such a powerful and universal appeal that the neurological roots of both telling tales and enjoying them are probably tied to crucial parts of our social cognition.
- A 2007 study … found that a test audience responded more positively to advertisements in narrative form as compared with straightforward ads that encouraged viewers to think about the arguments for a product. Similarly … labeling information as “fact” increased critical analysis, whereas labeling information as “fiction” had the opposite effect. Studies such as these suggest people accept ideas more readily when their minds are in story mode as opposed to when they are in an analytical mind-set.
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