What did you do the last time a child came up to your car window asking for alms as you waited at a traffic signal? Roll up your windows? Hastily hand over the first change that you could find in the glove compartment and drive away? Or simply drive away? Aparna Athreya told a story. And that’s how began the journey of Kid and Parent Foundation.
Aparna Athreya is a Bangalore-based Storyteller and also the founder of two ventures – Kid and Parent Foundation and Story Triangle. She is also the founder member of Bangalore Storytelling Society. She has been into Storytelling since 2009. Here are some excerpts from our chat with Aparna.
If you were to express yourself as an individual and as a storyteller, how would you describe the two personas?
A “cup of hot filter coffee” best describes me – a warm and passionate person. Just like coffee that undergoes various transformations, I too have been through many experiences in my life before reaching where I am today. I have had many bitter-sweet moments that have been the greatest lessons in life to me. And most importantly, like that cup of coffee which serves as the best “pick-me-up” drink in the world, I hope that my stories too will act as the best “pick-me-up” for all those around me.
Coffee and I go a long way back. My father is from the coffee business and so I have been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember! Coffee to my family is like the sun that shows up every day. Along with the steaming coffee in my hands, I have witnessed many family stories unfold before me. And so, listening to stories and narrating them is as joyous as a cup of hot filter coffee in my hands.
There are many things in life that influence us to what we become. Why did you want to be a storyteller and what influenced you on the journey?
My journey to becoming a storyteller is really like a “join-the-dots” rather than a big-bang moment. There have been many moments that have shaped me to become one. One incident that really stands out though happened at a traffic junction.
It was one of those wait-forever signals (180 secs to be precise) where I saw a boy and a girl asking for alms. As I offered a packet of biscuits I asked them in Kannada if they went to school.
The girl gave a toothy smile and said “Naanu hogtini, adre ivanu schoolge barodilla” (I go to school but he never comes to school). I asked them, “Nimage ondu kathe helala?” (Shall I tell you a story?). They both leaned their heads inside the window together and in those 120 secs remaining, I told them a story of an elephant who hated to go school but one day finds out that everything he touches turns into a book magically.
As the boy and the girl listened to the story, their eyes glinted in wonder. As I finished the story, I heard loud horns behind me, reminding me that I had a real-world to deal with!
As I pulled away I heard the boy say “Kathe helidare naanu schoolge hogutini” (If stories are told, I will also go to school). I knew at that moment that my life would change for good and I hoped that his would too.
Continuing with the same question, how have the stories from your life shaped or influenced your style of narrating the stories and the way you use them in storytelling?
I grew up in a family that is a loud, boisterous and always waiting to tell tall-tales to brag, browbeat or bond with one another. The stories are always hilarious, mundane and the humor is mostly aimed at ourselves. I think this certainly has shaped the way I identify, craft and tell the stories.
You are the founder of two wonderful ventures. Would you like to share the story about their inception? Also, how did you overcome the challenges that you faced on the way?
“Kid and Parent Foundation” was created as a natural outcome of my work in Storytelling and education. I had a set of mentors, family, friends and believers who I are always in my heart for steering me and staying with me on my journey. It is an organization that works with children, parents and educators in the area of self and social development using the power of storytelling and creative education.
“Story Triangle” was founded when the work I did in applied storytelling evolved and I made extensive studies and researches in Organizational Storytelling. It works with business leaders, women leaders and professionals in transforming business communication leveraging the power of stories.
You normally come across different types of audiences in your field of storytelling. Tell us about them and also who is your favorite set of audience?
I would like to quote the clichéd phrase “womb to tomb”. Specifically, we work with parents, young children, young adults, educators and senior citizens. There you have it!! I love working with anyone whose hearts and minds are curious and yearning to discover!
Do you wish to share with us any of your special moments or any particular incident or anecdote from your workshops and sessions?
There was once a lady who attended a workshop and stayed back to appreciate the class. As she was leaving she asked, “How is it that you know all the interesting stories? I know stories too but they are not so interesting!”
I told her that anything that comes out of the mouth of a storyteller is what makes the story interesting. I remember how we laughed together as she quipped “Can you be my mouthpiece in my class!”
Could you share with us some of your favorite books and stories for storytelling?
Few of my favorite stories are Alice in Wonderland, the Panchatantra collection and also various versions of Ramayana. Books for storytelling (oral tradition) would be the entire range of Margaret Read Macdonald’s books and business storytelling would be Annette Simmons’ ‘Whoever tells the best story wins‘.
Do you feel that storytelling can become a full-time profession? What would you like to say to those who aspire to become storytellers?
Storytelling can most certainly be adopted as a full-time profession by anyone who loves stories and is willing to develop some traits – curiosity, camaraderie and communication.
What is your advice to all the parents and teachers as to why and how stories and the tradition of storytelling must be kept alive?
Always be open to the stories unfolding around you. Every story will become worth telling if we understand how to connect with our listeners. Like I say, persons may come and go, but their stories go on forever.
We need to keep stories alive because long after we are gone, how we told our stories and what we told is what we can leave behind as a gift for those around us.
Kid and Parent Foundation is an educational company that runs training and development services in the education, corporate, public and the welfare sector. Story Triangle is a corporate training and Storytelling Consulting company that specializes in Self and Organizational development across corporate segments.
Don’t Miss: We love storytellers as much as we love storytelling. On Tell-a-Tale, we’ve featured a lot of talented storytellers, in the past.
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