Stories can make you laugh or cry, they can make you angry, depressed, ecstatic and scared; in short stories can evoke in you every emotion that humankind has ever known. Stories are talks and gossips, lessons and sermons. And one such storyteller who loves to indulge in “Golpo”, the Bengali word for story, is Rituparna Ghosh of Your Story Bag.
In her own words – “Like every magician who has a hat full of mysterious tricks, we believe that every person needs a bag, full of stories, like magical gems to be hidden and revealed at the right time and place. Your Story Bag is a Storytelling, Consulting & Training Company that offers services to children, parents, teachers and schools, entrepreneurs and business owners and corporates. “
We spoke to her about Your Story Bag and her love for storytelling.
Tell us a little about Rituparna – the storyteller?
What is the one thing in the world that no matter how much you give away, you still have a lot more? Or what is the one thing that no matter how much you consume, you always have the appetite for? If you ask someone like me that question, I would say it is Stories! I am actually a story lover. Or let’s say I am a story aficionado, or someone with a voracious appetite for stories. As much as I love stories, I love the whole process of gathering stories too. So I read, I listen, I observe. But then what does one do with all those stories? I can’t be filling up a bag of goodies without sharing it with others? And so therefore, I am a storyteller who wants to share stories with the world…telling one story at a time.
What influenced you to become a storyteller?
Actually I wanted to have a book café. A space where people could sit and read, buy books, discuss them, share their own anecdotes and connect over life before it slipped away. I wanted a bookstore because of my love for reading and the incredible itch to be surrounded by good people, the kinds that live within the pages of a book. But somewhere down the line I realized that having a bookstore or a book café was not the solution to the itch. As I delved deeper, I realized it was from my impending need to consume stories.
In my past life as a television producer, I always wanted to tell a new story. Even though I worked in a news organisation, the 2 minute timeline for storytelling never pleased me. I stuck to the long format, telling stories touching on politics, history, social, crime, investigation, cinema, sports, entertainment, youth, travel and every new genre that came my way. I loved the diversity of it all. Being in the visual medium gives you a lot of power, but dig deeper and you realize that when you pursue a story not like a ‘story’ in the news parlance (where every story has a life in the rundown), something touches you. It is that something when I discussed the early years of television with an Amita Malik, or hear Anupam Kher’s story even after the cameras are switched off. Or witness the guts of a 6-year old victim of terrorism as she tells you in the face that she is not scared of guns. These stories always touch a deep cord in the tellers’ heart, and while I was in television, I really didn’t pay notice to that touch.
Once I moved out, I realized that everyone is trying to tell a story. Some want to tell stories. While some others don’t know that stories exist within them! And therefore came the desire to help people tell stories. At a personal level, I wanted to be a better storyteller for my young son. And as I started telling stories I realized that I am enjoying it. The oral form of storytelling empowered me tremendously. Memories of dance and theatre gushed back and I was suddenly back to being the performer. At a personal level, storytelling is a spiritual experience for me. I am more connected to my body, my mind, my heart and I am a better person as a storyteller.
[color-box color=” customcolorpicker=” rounded=false dropshadow=false]Storytelling was a professional hazard as a visual teller, it is now a passion![/color-box]
Does your background in the visual media influence your style of storytelling and how you place it?
Oh yes it does! I am a very visual person. And really that is the one form of storytelling that I don’t use much now, yet I miss it incredibly! As I read, I imagine scenes in my head, always complete with its mise en scene, character looks, background music, dialogues. I imagine a character’s walk, his posture, his voice as if it was happening in front of me. And then I translate that as I tell a story. I also meticulously storyboard and choreograph my stories to make it a precise performance. All this comes from my habit to ‘direct’ a shot and a sequence.
Storytelling was a professional hazard as a visual teller, it is now a passion!
Tell us more about ‘Your Story Bag’ and the audiences it works with.
The concept is very simple. I believe that there is a storyteller in each one of us. Everyone has a magic bag, full of stories, but you need some help in sorting the stories out so that you can use the right story before the right audience. This is where I come in. I sensitize people about the stories that they have inside them and then I help them tell those stories effectively. In short, I facilitate people to harness the power of stories and help them discover expressions, emotions and life through them. I use ‘Golpo’, the Bengali word for story in my work. Golpo means a story, but it also means ‘having a conversation’, a noun and a verb at the same time. After all that is what stories do, generate conversations.
Kuch tum batao, kuch hum batayein, humari qisse mein kuch lamhe bitayae…
I primarily work with 3 large segments:
- Children, Parents, Teachers – Golpo
- Entrepreneurs, Professionals and Small Businesses – Golpo Connect
- Corporates – Corporate Golpo
[color-box color=” customcolorpicker=” rounded=false dropshadow=false]Not everyone wants to strip off their emotions and reveal the true person inside. Not everyone is comfortable listening to someone else’s stories. Most importantly, not everyone is willing to invest in storytelling. [/color-box]
You conduct storytelling workshops that last from 1 hour to as long as weeks. How different is the experience?
As different as soaking your toes in a pool of water or diving into the sea for discovery.
While I believe that everyone needs to tell stories, I also believe that not everyone can tell stories effectively. Similarly not everyone is sold on the concept of storytelling. Not everyone wants to strip off their emotions and reveal the true person inside. Not everyone is comfortable listening to someone else’s stories. Most importantly, not everyone is willing to invest in storytelling. Therefore the short workshops are designed for sensitizing the audience. It is like awareness building or that scoop of ice cream that you try before deciding whether to buy the whole tub! The longer format is for those willing to invest time, effort and money to discover the power of stories. It is an immersive program that not just changes the way a person sees life, but also how one sees oneself. Whenever I conduct a storytelling workshop, I tell people, that this will change your life. This will change the way you see yourself, and the way the world sees you. And mostly I am right!
Do you feel storytelling is an art form whose practice has to be limited to a few people?
Yes and no!
It is an art form, but for those who take up this craft for life, those who are willing to invest their careers, professions and lives for the craft. Today there are many who ask me if it pays to be a storyteller. I tell them, oh no, it doesn’t pay! I don’t know where will I find the next gig, or who will pay to hear me tell a story, but I know what I am willing to invest upon. You are a storyteller if you are willing to give something back to the art of storytelling. Ask not what you get out of storytelling, ask what you can give to the art form.
But that shouldn’t stop others from telling stories. You need not be a professional storyteller to tell stories. As long as you are a believer of stories, and are willing to listen to a good story, you are a storyteller. The fact that you have a story bag full of stories that you hear and witness, makes you one. Now all you need is a little bit of push to be able to tell it.
[color-box color=” customcolorpicker=” rounded=false dropshadow=false]An 8 year child went back to his mother and told her, “Of all the classes you have ever enrolled me in, this is the best of all.” [/color-box]
Is there any particular incident/anecdote from your sessions that you would like to share with readers?
This summer I worked with the age group 8-12 over an intensive workshop where I conducted the students’ version of my storytelling workshop called “’Tickle Your Story Bones”. An 8 year child went back to his mother and told her, “Of all the classes you have ever enrolled me in, this is the best of all.”
At another time during a teachers’ workshop, one teacher (one who always smiled irrespective of the situation) couldn’t sit through one of the stories I told. It was the story of a blind girl and how she wants to know colors. It is a story of hope and discovery. However the teacher couldn’t stop crying. Later when I met her and hugged her, she told me that she has a disabled husband and so life as she knows it is very difficult. As the anchor in the family she chooses to shield her pain and emotions with her smile. And that day as she heard the story, she couldn’t stop the flood of tears. She thanked me for opening up the flood gates. She acknowledged her emotions after a long long time. Long after the story was told, her eyes were still moist and the smile was very different.
Any suggestions to our readers how they can help in keeping stories alive?
If you had one story to tell people about your life, what would that be? Try telling that story to someone, and as you tell, observe the emotions you feel. If you are reliving the moment once again and if you feel the same emotions that you felt when the incident happened, you have discovered the power of stories. Don’t trap your stories, let them free…because in the end that is all that is left of us.
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.
Are you a Storyteller? If you’re a storyteller who is actively pursuing storytelling and would like to be featured in this column, drop us a mail at contact AT tell-a-tale.com or reach out to us via Facebook.