In my diary….in the year1989 I found that I’ve written, “I will tell stories to the world when I grow up”. Today in 2020, my journey has gone beyond storytelling: bringing awareness of the unique resources within and employing these in blooming to one’s fullest potential in the world.
My growing up years was spent across cities & towns in India. I engaged in different pursuits – learning flute in the school band and violin from the government college. Indian classical dance had been a way of life: learning it from 6 to 24years, intermittently. After schooling in the ICSE board up to grade12, I graduated in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics, and alongside gave wings to my dream of flying by becoming a Glider Pilot with the NCC (National Cadet Corp).
‘Change of track’in 1997: coding in C++ programming language, and part-timing with All India Radio’s Yuvavani English (1997- 2002). ‘Change of track again’: post-graduating in English Literature from the Central University of Hyderabad.
Meanwhile life was slowly taking me towards that one thing I somehow believed I’d never do but turns out I would love doing for the rest of my life– “teaching”! I started in 2000, on a request for filling in for a teacher. Took up contractual appointments in central government schools, in Hyderabad, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir: Teaching English to grade 11 &12. In between I wrote for the national daily The Hindu, and also taught a Carnegie Mellon’s Business Communication Skills course for a MS-IT program.
By 2006, life had brought me the joy of becoming a parent to two lovable boys. As the infants grew up, I managed to complete a distance education program specializing in the teaching of English from EFL- English and Foreign Languages University.
‘Jack of all trades, Master of None’ was a label I was learning to get used to. My argument in self-defense: “I did hold a Master’s Degree!” Nevertheless, I was seeking my purpose. The clarity came in 2008. It took a kidney malfunction and 4 months of 80 tablets a day of steroids to make me realize that storytelling and dance filled me with energy, filled me with life! So I held my first 3-week camp for children in May, and was taken off steroids in June, the very next month.
Ever since then, I have chosen to keep storytelling and teaching close to my heart. 2008 – the first summer camp of ‘Storytelling & Dance’, in a little town Deolali, Maharashtra to 2013 – performing at the National Kala Ghoda Festival, to 2017 – invitation to perform at the National Library of Scotland, one of the oldest International Storytelling Festivals in the world. That is a story in itself.
The journey continues and new pathways continue to open up growing me and my work in fresh ways, such as ‘Teacher Training’. From 2011 onwards, I’ve trained over 50,000 educators of all levels and from government as well as private institutions, in India and outside, in employing the art of oral storytelling in the classrooms.
My performances too have evolved over the years, with various theme-based researched productions – Indian mythology, science, folk-artist collaborations, and international collaborations. Invitations to present TEDx talks, keynote presentations and lec-dems at universities have been enriching. National award for my video teacher-training modules for UGC and British Council research grant for storytelling and English language teachers, fill me with gratitude. The best reward is of course doing what I love and being able to impact lives.
To carry the work forward, Story Arts Foundation was registered in 2017, with the aim of disseminating the oral storytelling traditions; as well as to work with children and educators especially from challenging backgrounds. The sister organization Story Arts supports projects such as DAMADIKYA – World Storytelling Celebration born in 2018, which brings storytellers from across the world to India.
When it comes to creative pursuits, writing is my succor at all times and I hope to share more of my written works with the world. I enjoyed writing and narrating, ‘The Royal Mistake’ – a print and audio book for children. The commissioned project for the Nagaland State Board is a cherished memory. I have written a short story ‘Sunshine Susan’ based on gender empowerment which is one of the lessons in the English Text Book (supplementary reader). I continue to contribute articles to educational and research journals such NCERT, British Council India, Cambridge Scholars and Teacher Plus.
Life never fails to surprise and 2020 had been one of the biggest. This lockdown-time, I worked on bringing together my understanding of Yoga to children which led to designing and conducting ‘Minmini Shishu’ a 12 hour intervention that introduced Yoga through stories, songs, chants, creative journaling and self-reflection. The creative bug continues to itch and so in May, I learnt film-making online from Auroville Film Center, and made my first autobiographical documentary short-film.
Of course the heart dreams of many more performances, books, training programs and coaching. As our paths cross, I look forward to building meaning in our life and our world as we grow together!