One more story please, was my persistent squeal as a child. Adults in the family had a tough time getting rid of my nagging, irritating self.
To silence me I was often told the story of the king and his five sons, ka, da, kha,zhi, nju…which put together meant the story is over, in Malayalam.
In my grand parents home in Varandhirapilly, we lived in a traditionally built Kerala home. Though it was a huge place to live in and though there were many of us in the house, we had just one electric fan and this was in my grand parents bedroom.
In the night, just after supper at about 8.30 pm all the men in the family would lie down with heads placed on the bed and their bodies stretched out in different angles.They lay like that sharing stories ,beneath the slowly whirring fan blades in the darkness.
Discussions were usually of a serious nature with the ordeals of office and politics cropping up and grand father chipping in with his expert opinion in between. But there always was an occasional allowance of a story well told, that much awaited moment for us kids in the house.
Shivaji Maharaj, Eklavya,Rama, the Prince of Ayodhya and many other characters came alive in that half an hour until grand father bundled every one out of his room.
Story telling sessions happened in the mornings too. Grand father would return from the fields at about 9 or 10 am. He would have his third coffee of the day and settle down in the arm chair . My grand mother by then, having had her morning bath, sparkling in her starched mundu veshti and with a huge kumkum bindi and neatly kohled eyes would settle next to him on the floor.
In his loud rhythmical baritone grand father would then read a text in Sanskrit and follow it up with discussion. Though not allowed to be an audience officially, I am fairly sure of having heard Abhinjana Shakuntalam being discussed.
As a day dreamer and as someone who lived more in a world of imagination than reality, I spent a lot of time, with my nose buried in books. Back then books came cheaper too and so when I insisted on a book as a birthday gift, no body cribbed. Even my father was quite accommodating.
When I joined college for graduation in English Language and Literature, I had already read the Paico editions of all English classics. In the classroom,I showed off with pride my intimate knowledge of Hamlet, Ophelia, Iago ,Othello and others with out ever having read a Shakespearean Classic in its original! This, I revealed later to the amusement of my classmates.
I had always nurtured the fantasy of myself becoming a successful journalist. I had hoped to unveil great conspiracies and be a real time hero in the public eye, a la Arnab Goswami. But Mr.MJ Akbar who interviewed me at Indian Institute of Mass Communication,New Delhi thought differently. He asked , why do all Malayalis travel to New Delhi when there are enough colleges in Kerala? I was stumped. Did he expect me to counter him with gusto? I was clueless and just managed to murmur some nonsense , blowing up my chance at studying in the prestigious institution. But I didn’t complain. I had my own reason to want to continue studying at the famed Victoria College in Palakkad, Kerala.
I was certainly not to remain unemployed. My mother thoughtfully bought an application form that cost Rs.5 from the Government College of Teacher Education, Calicut and sent it to me. Soon I was doing my Bachelors in Education there. This was, of course after I completed my Masters, got married and had a kid. When I was busy with the numerous extra curricular activities that B.Ed demanded, my little daughter went to a play school. If anyone asked her what she did, she replied that she was doing her B.Ed. Thus started my journey as a teacher. Though I was not a teacher by choice, I thoroughly enjoyed my stint at teaching for almost 14 years.
Teaching also gave me much time to regale my students with stories. No matter what the age, children including adolescents love listening to stories. I have had some wonderfully memorable experiences in the classroom because teaching a language allows you a lot of space to do some interesting activities in the classroom.
After leaving school, I was tormented by a certain vacuum that was hard to fill. When an opportunity presented itself to tell a story to children,I latched on to it eagerly. My audience was a bunch of kids aged not more than 5 but they and their attentive parents, helped me gain confidence as a story teller. Later in the apartment where I stay, I volunteered like others to do a session in story telling.
Hopefully I have kick started my career as a story teller. I hope to tell many stories, to adults or to children. I hope to be able to do so in Malayalam,Hindi and sometime in Kannada too…
Its a wonderful thing to do, to be a story teller, to weave magic with words. The thrill of telling stories is now my new found joy!