The Here and Now Stories

‘That old blue dustbin in the corner of the classroom, almost, always went unnoticed. He was not an attention-seeker, but, somebody had to notice him to fill his tummy, right!’ Let me explain. This is how one of my storytelling sessions would begin, if I were to get the attention of the students to throw their crumpled pieces of paper & their pencil shavings into their bin. The wastes were the food for the bin. ‘The bin did not have friends, nobody fed the bin, so how do you think he felt?’ I would paste a sad face would on the bin now. The next few minutes the bin would be the focal point of all. I’d narrate this newly conceived story of how the bin wanted friends who’d drop the trash right into him, so that he would not remain hungry and he could in turn, keep the room clean! A funny voice ( obviously Mr. Bin’s), a simple song, lots of humour, a simple storyline with the context and nature of the group in mind are sure to make one hit the target— throwing one’s garbage into the bin, not around or near but only into the bin! No preaching, no moralizing, the bin will remind them of this simple, yet significant story! As the kids would move around briskly collecting the pieces of papers and throwing it into the bin, the sad face will be replaced by a happy face on the bin! This would be a story for the primary and pre-primary kids. The same would be accordingly tweaked to be suitable for older kids.

Lessons on keeping the surroundings clean..
Lessons on keeping the surroundings clean..

Well, this is how Storipur’s stories encompassing social and environmental responsibilities are constructed. These stories serve as triggers to shake ourselves up from our regular routines, take a pause, make those paradigm shifts. These stories revolve around the ‘ here and now’ social concerns leading to reflective dialoguing. ‘Aunty, I don’t have a dustbin in my car, so that day I had to throw the chocolate wrapper out into the road’, confessed a 5 year old. But, her friend had a quick solution, ‘next time , keep it in your bag and then throw it into your house- dustbin. Your house- dustbin will be happy and will become your friend!” No doubt, this would be an ‘aha’ moment for any educator and I am no exception! As a storyteller and facilitator, I subtly nudge my listeners to a self-reviewing mode which would be my platform to construct and share new knowledge. So, ‘how did your dustbin look like , last night?’. ‘Yuck, stinky, smelly’.. after all those expressions, they start sharing the details gradually. Now a visualisation of their dustbins with the contents follows– drawing their bins. This has always been an eye opener, the objective of the exercise being to send across the message~ it is my dustbin and I am responsible for the waste I generate!

Creating a plastic monster with used bottle caps..
Creating a plastic monster with used bottle caps..

From here we move on to waste segregation, consumerism, plastic toxicity and several other related concepts ( based on the readiness of the group). Through the same Mr. Bin, our protagonist in the story, multiple perspectives will be explored. Facts and figures , why this fuss about our mess etc. may also be incorporated for the older audience. Linking theory to practice also becomes simplified! Eventually, collaborative activities, in this case, the kids understanding the waste management system in their school or community will be added.

Growing a plant...Introducing the concept of recycling and encouraging a green connect..
Growing a plant…Introducing the concept of recycling and encouraging a green connect..

Such ‘here and now’ stories exist everywhere. It’s our everyday situations which form the basis for these stories. A conversation between a grandfather and his grandson about an old radio; a seed & a single-use plastic fork bickering over their greatness; Aakash (sky), Jal (water), Vayu (air)furious over open-trash-burning…ohhh..the list of contexts for crafting such here-and-now stories can be endless.

Recently, Storipur & Saahas’s e- waste storytelling sessions added another interesting twist to our here-and-now storytelling sessions. Creating awareness about e-wastes amongst our uber-cool, gen- now kids was not that easy. They love their PSPs, laptops, crave for the latest cell-phones…it was obvious that we’d be dismissed off as being uncool, if we talk to them about e-wastes! It is this anxiety which propelled me to write the story Sell Phone, the journey of a cell- phone and a chilled out teen.

The Tale of the 'Sell Phone'
The Tale of the ‘Sell Phone’

The story, wherever told has garnered positive responses regarding responsible recycling and has enabled the listeners to question their practices and attitudes which generally get masked in one’s tunnel visioned life styles.
Here’s a quick question. What is the difference between wants and needs ? It’s hard, most of us don’t know or have conveniently forgotten the meaning these two words. Thanks to our purchasing power. An activity followed by stories, ( Zen stories, fables, Panchatantra.. there are so many of them) will leave the difference of these words etched in the listener’s minds. Of course, from here stem our interactions, our debates on consumerism, recycling, reducing, refusing, upcycling etc.
Every time, I walk back and hear a kid calling to me, ‘ cell phone Aunty’ or coming running to say that he/ she threw that chips packet into the bin or they hugged a tree or they used both the sides of a paper, or a high school kid telling me that he/she would love to read more about plastic toxicity, it gives my stories an extra pair of wings to fly! It’s beautiful and fulfilling to craft stories according to the ‘here and now’, not just according to the changing contexts but also to change the context.
I came across the following lines, some time back.
If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories.
If you want to change the culture, change the stories.
Couldn’t agree more!
– Priya Muthukumar,
– Storyteller & Founder, Storipur

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