Storytelling Workshop in St. Joseph’s

In the morning of 7th Sep, a group of 30 enthusiastic students from the history department of St. Joseph’s congregated to participate in the first ever “Story telling session.” The enthusiasm and excitement were visible on their faces albeit it being a cloudy Saturday morning! With the approval of History department HoD Ms. Jane Dsouza and in collaboration of Destination Heritage, I got an opportunity to conduct a workshop on “Storytelling – Where Ideas Nourish” in the campus.

Ideas need Stories, Stories need Storytellers

Dr. Githa, founding member of Destination Heritage and I reached early and over a few cups of filter coffee, pondered and discussed about the importance of storytelling in the office of Ms. Dsouza. It was deliberated that storytelling can give wings to our imaginations. Stories and not just bookish hypothesis help our ideas to flourish. We also discussed our discourse over the next few hours. Ms. Dsouza accompanied us to the classroom packed with excited and ignited minds. She introduced us to the students and the session commenced with a silent two-minute prayer. Later Dr. Githa gave a brief speech on the importance of storytelling and its existence in our rich heritage culture. It was an intriguing talk where she highlighted storytelling as part of Indian culture and how the older generations have transferred their rich heritage to the newer in the form of stories and folktales. The eagerness in the students started kindling when Dr. Githa shared how her walk-n-talk sessions on Indian heritage have helped many students from different domains in learning and exploring our rich culture.

The dais was transferred to me to start the workshop. I could notice the sparkling eyes and curious minds sitting in the class eager to bask in the lights of stories. It was indeed a nostalgia for me to enter the classroom after so many years. To make the workshop more interactive, I decided to form four teams within the class headed by team captains. Four super energetic young ladies volunteered to be the team captains and they formed their teams in no time! With few adjustments, we were all good to kick start. The four-hour workshop was divided into 4 group activities and there was a surprise waiting for the winning team which further intrigued the young adults.

I started the workshop with a brief about storytelling and stories itself, followed by the importance of 3Ws – What, When and Where in storytelling. “Even a well-known story when shared in right context can leave greater impact.” The brief theory on how cave-paintings became the source of knowledge for the researchers was also shared much to the disbelief of the impact it has on present day society.

Exercise #1: Pick A Line

The first activity of the day was “Pick a Line”. The idea was to form a story starting from any random sentence. All the participants were expected to form a new sentence, keeping in mind the point shared in the sentence of last group. It was a fun event when the students poured in their imaginations to form a story with round of thoughts and opinions expressed by each group. The groups were gearing up and giving wings to their thoughts. The line which started with a person stuck in traffic ended in police station and how his father took charge against him when he reached back home next morning.

Exercise #2: Paint A Story

Under this task, the groups were given a challenge to paint their imaginations and pass on the paintings to next group. The next group was expected to understand the painting and share what they understood out of the vivid colors thrown on the canvas by the previous group. It helped the students to express and transform their thoughts with not only words but with colors. The groups painted their imaginations and expressed their opinions on Cauvery water conflicts, Mother Nature bleeding, Save the trees campaign on the pretext of papers made from cut trees and new visualization on Oscar winning movie Titanic. The paintings portrayed the dichotomy in the human thoughts where we cut the trees and protest against the cutting of those trees using the papers made from these trees. The conflicts over Cauvery river where the farmers and the common men protest but the industries suck the last drop from the river only to fill it back with polluted water.

Post activity 2 we went on a quick lunch break and returned within 20min. This shows the enthusiasm was at peak. Nobody wanted to miss the following exciting activities.

Exercise #3: Role Play

The classroom was now buzzing with the profound imaginations of the young minds and the curious minds were geared up for the next activity. The theme of this part was “Hatred”. A story around the moment which we hate most in life and how we overcame that moment to live on with our identity. The theme was very different from a regular discussion, and hence forced everyone to be genuinely themselves. They shared their thoughts within the group as part of brainstorming and came up with couple of stories from each group. The stories ranging from social stigma, college faculty and events to the personal family matters. The students were really talking. The moments of their first days in college, first interaction with a shrewd stranger and the personal family matters where a child with different ability had to face the harshness of her own family members. The honesty and the heart touching tales from such younglings created a huge impact on our minds as story tellers too! I was personally touched by the personal touch everyone had to their stories. It was definitely emotional and eye-opening.

Post two hours of this comprehensive exercise, they were transforming as storytellers.

We were thrilled listening to the various moments from the personal lives of these kids which ranged from the religious dogmas and societal parlances. But the best part of the role-play was the students with different abilities came up stronger and shared their stories. The story of a girl whose conservative uncle doesn’t want her to pursue studies further. She beautifully portrayed her struggles and the sparkle in her eyes showed how confidently she would grow up to be a mature adult beating all odds. Another story of a boy and his funny struggles to get pocket money from his father certainly tickled my funny bones. It was inspiring to hear their stories about how they beat all the odds to gain a competitive position in the college and society.

Exercise #4: What if

The last hour of the workshop finally arrived and got the last activity of the day rolling.

What-if segment was designed to pick famous historical events and reframe the story if those events wouldn’t have happened. All the groups were given 2 “What-if” statements and they had to frame a story around in 15min. The last 30min when they were given chance to share their stories, it was never-before-in-life experience for me. I heard different young perspectives in form of stories which nobody would have thought before. This proved the power of storytelling.

This brought end to the four-hour event with the room filled with applause and so many newly discovered storytellers from the lot. The winning team was presented with a gift hamper – a pack of book “Chakravyuh” and the four best performers were identified. The best part was these newly discovered storytellers were known to be introverts in the campus. Ms. Jane Dsouza concluded the event with an additional surprise of credit-points to all the students who participated in the workshop. The bells were really ringing but the hearts ached for more.

The bandwagon of four hours ended on a high and happy note followed by photo sessions – the memories to cherish for lifetime.

Hope to see all of them again!

I would like to thank, Ms. Jane, Dr. Githa and the students of St. Josephs for this wonderful collaborative event and looking forward to some more rewarding time.

overwhelming faces post workshop
Stories in the painting

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