Updated: Oct 14, 2020
"Stories are the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal” - Howard Gardner
(photography credits: Subra Mukherjee Roy)
Storytelling is perhaps one of the oldest means used by human beings to socially connect, entertain, and pass information related to cultural and social activities of past and present. Storytelling has a profound power wherein the narrator with his/her gestures and expressions synchronizes with the audience in a way that it stays in their memory for very long (and sometimes even forever).
By Storytelling here, I mean the traditional way of oral narration which perhaps many people, at least of my age or older than me have experienced in their childhood. I still remember the stories of eternal deep friendship between Shree Krishna and Sudhama, the classic fairy tales of Cinderella, how one of the greatest Soccer player Pele scored his 1000th goal, inspirational life stories of great leaders and scientists, and many more such stories ranging from fairy tales to fiction and culture, which were narrated to us during our childhood days by our elders.
Besides we would always wait eagerly to listen to stories of how people led their lives in olden times and wonder how they lived without electricity, television, walked for miles to go to school, or how they grew their own food, etc.
Those were not just stories, but it presented to us limitless possibilities of imagination, creativity and took us to alternate worlds where a big banana tree with a huge iron weapon could come to rescue us from the monsters, or we imagined ourselves talking to stars, visiting gigantic kingdoms and meeting Kings and Queens and what not. We literally imagined ourselves immersed in those stories.
Whatever the story it would be, but when I look back one thing that I find common in all these stories are, they were used by the elders of the family as an indirect means to pass on the culture, family values and teach us important life lessons. Those stories weaved a deep sense of belongingness towards our roots, family values, culture, and nation and unknowingly taught the value of human relationships, the dignity of labor, and being respectful to natural resources.
But sadly, with the new trendy plug-in culture, the art of storytelling is almost lost. With the internet playing such a major role in our day to day lives, even an infant would prefer to watch rhymes on YouTube instead of listening to a song sung by parents or grandparents. I remember, once when I was narrating a short story from Ramayana to my 8-year-old cousin, she asked if it’s there on YouTube.
Today, with so much of information and entertainment at the touch of our fingertips, human interaction has become so minimal that perhaps neither there are people who have the patience to narrate stories, and even if we find storytellers, there are very few kids and teens who would prefer oral stories over games and YouTube videos or Netflix and Kindles.
Human beings are inherently social creatures, but in modern times human beings have become virtually social but emotionally lonely creatures. Never before in human history, there has been so many diseases and ailments particularly related to lifestyle stress.
Today, a lot of research is being done to unlock the mysteries of human connection and overall wellbeing. Scientists are proving the significant effect that family values and human connection have on overall health and wellbeing.
Besides, research published recently by psychologists and neuroscientists suggests that the brain responds with more focus, better clarity, and engagement when we listen to stories. Data Scientists also agree that the highest level of skill which produces the most coherent, memorable, and informative insights about a data set is through narrative ‘STORY-TELLING’.Even the Outcome-Based Education model emphasizes the importance of incorporating the art of storytelling in the teaching-learning process.
So, undoubtedly oral storytelling has its own charm and fluidity and it is needless to mention the tremendous benefits it offers to mankind. Perhaps, we can revive this old fascinating way of connecting and not let it be lost in the hands of technology.
“We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” - Jimmy Neil Smith