Friday, 11 September 2015

A story about stories..

In a recent post, I had waxed poetic about the need to tell our stories, its importance for our sustenance and even its sacred connotations. Put me in touch with people and I will unconsciously begin to glean their stories, tell them some of my own and sometimes even save these exchanges for future reference. Yet as my story-telling enterprise continues to thrive, there are few realizations too which have dawned upon me and as they continue to spin inside my mind, I could not help but write this 'story about stories' or more precisely, 'a story about story-telling'.

The realizations seem to have sunk so deep, that I find it difficult to even waste my effort on constructing a parable and would rather translate my erudition in a bulleted form:
  • "Walls have ears. Doors have eyes. Trees have voices.Beasts tell lies." Nothing could have better conveyed if I were to say that any stories one would tell, will echo in several parallel universes.
  • Excerpts of the stories will be used to create contextual truths. Just as there is no such as thing as an absolute truth, there is also no such thing as a 'whole story'. 
  • The stories might be intercepted by the unknown and unasked listener.
  • The theme of the story might be misunderstood or partially understood or not understood at all.
  • The characters of the story may threaten to become too real or make caricatures of us. Sometimes, far from being a dispassionate narrator, one might end up becoming a character of the story itself.
  • The language of the story determines its import. While the language of logical arguments, of proofs, is the language of the limited self we know and can manipulate, the language of parable and poetry, of storytelling, moves from the imprisoned language of the provable into the freed language of what I must, for lack of another word, continue to call faith. 
  • The listener might be too distracted to understand and appreciate what it takes to weave a story and more so, to transmit it.
  • Not all stories have a definitive ending. Some might end rather too abruptly. Just as some poems don’t rhyme, some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Moreover, I do not believe in happy endings. For someone like me who considers life to be like a flowing river, there are no endings. And yet, I also maintain that one should never give up a happy middle in the hopes of a happy ending.
  • Whenever the stories from two different universes collide, the result can never be a happy one but then Happiness, like all else, is purely contextual.
  • To borrow the words of my favourite story-teller Salman Rushdie, "Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts."
  • It takes a lot of courage to exchange certain stories. It takes a lot of courage to speak up one's mind and tell one's heart. But this doesn't apply to storytelling alone.
  • As someone remarked, "Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story."
  • People did not wait until there was writing before they told stories and sang songs. A lot of stories remain unwritten unsung.
  • Most importantly, a story is told as much by silence as by speech. It is often the stories told by silence which are more profound than the spoken ones.
Lastly, the pursuit of story-telling would be a meaningless one without the faith and devotion of a listener. I could not have put it better than in the words of BrenĂ© Brown, "Our stories are not meant for everyone. Hearing them is a privilege, and we should always ask ourselves this before we share: "Who has earned the right to hear my story?" If we have one or two people in our lives who can sit with us and hold space for our shame stories, and love us for our strengths and struggles, we are incredibly lucky. If we have a friend, or small group of friends, or family who embraces our imperfections, vulnerabilities, and power, and fills us with a sense of belonging, we are incredibly lucky.If we can find someone who has earned the right to hear our story, we need to tell it. Shame loses power when it is spoken. In this way, we need to cultivate our story to let go of shame, and we need to develop shame resilience in order to cultivate our story."


  1. I almost could feel stories gushing out from me...
    wonderfully written Sheetal

    1. Thanks Alokji.
      Your appreciation encourages me to tell more stories.. and hear even more.