The storyteller

Story telling has been part of the lore of probably every civilisation that has existed in this world. Be it fairy tales, mythological narratives, myths or just stories, this tradition played a major role in forming minds and instilling values. I had forgotten how much I owed to this wonderful art. I guess much of who I am today is due to the myriad of stories I heard and read from the time I was a toddler. Why am I talking of storytelling today you may wonder? As you may be knowing Utpal has been going to a therapist for the past 2 years. The child was unable to deal with all that befell him starting with the disappearance of his mother one fine morning, to the sequels of all the violence he has witnessed from the time he was born. Suffering third degree burns when we was just a baby, dealing with the mood swings and dysfunctional life of his alcoholic parents, hearing the jeers of people around him about the identity of his father; sleeping hungry when the mom forgot to cook or was too drunk to do so. You name it, he experienced it.

When things went out of hand he was packed to a boarding school. He was just 4. We had no option, or so we thought. But today when I look at my 4+ grandson I feel a sense of guilt at not having realised that Utpal was still a bay when I packed him off. Hope he will forgive me when time comes. You understand why he needed therapy as no one, even less a child, can process all that happened to him without help.

Sorry for this aparte. It was just to put things in context.

During his last session, the therapist asked to see me. She suggested that I read him moral stories during the summer break as that would help him learn values. I pondered over this for a long time and realised that what she said what actually a far bigger issue than that of little Popples. In today's day and age there are no more storytellers. When we were young our grandmothers or grandaunts use to take time to tell us stories. Our parents often read us bedtime stories. And when we started reading, we read stories. Schools had moral studies as a compulsory subject and we thus heard moral stories. Each story planted a seed in our minds. That seed many not have germinated on the day it was planted, but somehow sprouted at the right time, when a situation occurred when we needed to take a decision. It helped us take the right decision, even if it was not the preferred one.

Today children live in nuclear families with parents who are not storytellers. Television and Internet have replaced reading time and schools have done away with moral study altogether. This happens across the board, be it with rich or poor children with a slight difference: the rich child may see a programme he likes while the poor child has to see the inane TV serials his family likes. And even if you try and look with the largest loupe you can find, there are scant lessons to be learnt in the violent cartoons or silly serials. It is time we restored the art of storytelling if we want our children to become caring and honest humans. But that is no easy task.

The news is replete with scams, corruption, rape, violence and more. The lessons we are telling our kids is that it is fine to lie, you can get away with murder, money is the only goal you need have. I am horrified at the number of expensive gadgets rich children have. This is the preferred way of parents who are busy making money to get rid of the guilt they might feel for the scant time they spend with their kids. And somehow children equate reading to a boring pastime and hence are just fed what the visual media gives them.

True there are parents who walk the less travelled road but they are far and few and cannot make the difference we want. Everyone is complaining about the rise in crime graph but this is bound to happen with the completely valueless education we are giving to our children both within the homes and in schools. Moral study should be revived in schools as that is the best way to ensure that these lessons reach a large spectrum of children. But as always who will bell the cat!