There lies a story within every person. And every time they share a story with someone, they share a piece of themselves. And one of the main tasks of a storyteller is to discover these stories and convert them into snippets that entertain or educate..or edutain. This is exactly what storyteller Yogita Ahuja has set out to achieve through her storytelling venture I Nurture Me.
A warm and affable people’s person, Yogita, a storyteller from Ahmedabad, has been in the Learning & Development field for 15 years. But only recently discovered the hidden powers of storytelling that she had been sub-consciously employing at work. Here are some excerpts from our chat with Yogita.
Who is Yogita Ahuja?
A warm, affable, people’s person is how I would like to describe myself. I love to live and live to share. What draws me to people are their unique stories, that are a product of their varied backgrounds, aspirations, talents and special gifts. Each time I share a story with someone, I share a piece of myself with them. I absolutely believe in something that I heard long ago – “If you want to learn about a culture, learn the stories; if you want to change the culture, change the stories”. And everyone loves a good story, don’t they!
What influenced you to become a storyteller?
I did my PG in Training & People Leadership and have been in the field of Learning & Development for the last 15 years – training as well as consulting. For many years, I didn’t realize that I was using storytelling as a means to educate and engage with my trainees, collect success stories from my client organizations, and discover personal and professional stories that made people who they really are. Over a period of time, I gradually became aware of one thing – the part when I shared stories, in my workshops, was the time the participants enjoyed the most, were most engaged and were at their productive best. I started using the art of storytelling more often.
One day, I cooked up a story and shared it with my 3-year old child – the story of a fictitious character. My son immediately identified with it. Next, he wanted to become the main character himself, so we created a new story. From there on, the stories just kept flowing. That cooked-up-story experience with my son was an AHA moment for me. I was inspired and totally hooked on to the idea of taking the joy of “learning through storytelling” to both children and adults.
I proceeded to understand and experience first-hand a formal storytelling process by gathering insights from Kathalaya (Bengaluru), World Storytelling Institute (Chennai) and Storywise (Singapore). Geeta Ramanujam, Dr Eric Miller and Sheila Wee have been instrumental in helping me go ahead with my storytelling venture.
Tell us about the story of your venture.
I had been wanting to start an educational venture since 2012. But living in cities like Delhi and Mumbai meant zero bandwidth post a long and hard day’s work, both at office and home. I could barely gather my wits to get started. However, when we moved to Ahmedabad, about 2 years ago, the entrepreneurial spirit of the city, just got me going. Everything started falling in place – from starting I Nurture Me Learning Services as the mother brand, and a few months later The StoryCircle by INM. We do storytelling sessions in schools, colleges and corporates. I seized every business opportunity that came my way, and converted that into a storytelling opportunity – seeding stories and spreading smiles.
A few months back, to celebrate World Storytelling day, I initiated Storytelling Meetups in Ahmedabad. This was a platform for people to bond over stories, share stories of all kinds – personal, folktales, mythological, etc.
And like every meaningful story, there have been challenges in our story too. It ranged from schools not seeing the need for a separate storytelling curriculum, to most institutions perceiving that telling a story is ‘teacher’s’ play. What they did not realize is that the choice of stories and the ways stories are told could make the child either fall in love with this method of learning or become averse to it. I also faced challenges in terms of funds to support our workshops, at times pulling out finds from corporate consulting projects to fund INM activities.
However, my firm belief in the craft of storytelling, and in my own abilities to help participants learn in a way that deepens their conceptual understanding, has kept me going. Also, a heartfelt conviction that we can help people discover the pure joy of learning, sharing and connecting through storytelling, has helped me overcome all these little hurdles – one at a time!
And to be honest, we will continue to face challenges, but that’s what will make our story ‘worth’ it – ‘worth’ telling, ‘worth’ listening, isn’t it!
What are the kind of audiences you work with?
I work with everyone – children (above 4 years), youngsters, adults.. My audiences vary from corporate leaders, college students, teachers, parents to school children – basically anyone who would like to experience the joy of stories.
How do you/your venture set yourself apart from other storytellers?
Because of the nature of the work that I have done since 2000, and my experience with corporate professionals for very many years, I can clearly distinguish between the times when Storytelling can be used as a means to achieve an end vis-a-vis when it can be used as an end in itself.
“There are two ways to share knowledge- You can push information out or you can pull them in with a story”. At The Storycircle, I focus intensively on skill building and exploring institutional values through storytelling. I work very closely with the participant group to discover the needs to be addressed through my story workshops, design the programs accordingly and focus on the progress made by each participant post the program. Reflection & Role Playing forms a very important part of my story workshops.
Our forte at The Story Circle by INM is Corporate & management Storytelling, Entrepreneurial Storytelling, Train-the-Teller programs and Exploring Values through Storytelling & Drama, especially for children and young adults.
How have the stories in your life influenced your style of storytelling and the way you use stories?
I have grown up watching our epic stories – The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, stories that have remained with me all these years.
The style I naturally adopt during my storytelling is that of a ‘Story–facilitator’ which is a more participative and collaborative method. I have been raised in a large joint family system where you naturally learn to care and share. In the last 2 decades, I have lived in different parts of India and made friends from different walks of life, each with their own unique life story. Also, ever since my school and college days, I have been an active practitioner of creative expression through dance & dramatics and that helps you value team work and collaboration. My professional career has also been built on a solid foundation of co-creation. Therefore, in my telling, I use stories in a way that sharing becomes a joyful process and the listener plays an active contributor role.
Any particular incident/anecdote from your workshops/sessions that is special to you?
So many. Actually every workshop helps me create memories to cherish. At a recent Sunday workshop that I was doing for children aged 9-12 years on Creative Writing through stories, at Crossword book store, I finished the workshop and said ‘thank you’ to children. I assumed they would say bye and leave. But then, no one moved. I said thank you again and yet no one moved. I asked them what was wrong and then a few got up and one of them asked, “Can we continue the session? We want to learn more. We don’t want to go home”. How satisfying is that for a Teller and Trainer!
Another very special incident happened on Jan 26, 2017 when I was invited as Guest of honor, to tell stories and motivate a crowd of 300 plus students in a school adopted by ‘Teach for India’ . The children interacted well and seem to enjoy themselves. They were responding enthusiastically to the animal stories and folk tales. Post the session, during the free interaction round, one of the students got up and asked “Ma’am, how do you remember so many stories so nicely? I want to learn that too.” It was one of the most endearing questions I have ever been asked.
Any story that you particularly love using?
I love using the story of ‘The Starfish’ because of its theme and powerful message – “Each one of us can make a difference”.
I also love using the ‘Crow and Peacock’ Story to drive home the point that we are all unique and lets be happy just the way we are.
Animal stories are my favorite pick, especially when working with children. With adults, I love using stories from Indian mythology, especially as the characters in our epics are relate-able in so many ways.
- Read the Story of The Starfish here.
Do you think storytelling can be adopted as a full-time profession? Why?
Absolutely. We really need to revive the art and culture of Storytelling in India. The number of full time storytellers in our country and the interest in Storytelling is on the rise and that is heartening. Given our country’s size and our rich heritage, it will need a lot more of us to take this up as a full-time profession. It is a huge responsibility too. Otherwise, our stories will just fade away with time.
Your advice to those who want to pick up storytelling as a profession.
My suggestion would be to take one step at a time. This profession will do wonders for you if you are absolutely passionate about it. There is no quick buck in this. Your physical presence, building authentic connect with your audience and carving a name for yourself – all of this takes time, patience and perseverance. Once you establish your credibility, there should be no looking back. So one may want to consider starting out with volunteering time to tell stories, part-time storytelling and gradually build it on from there. Happy Story-ing!
You can reach out to Yogita directly through her:
- Website – I Nurture Me
- Facebook page – I Nurture Me Learning Services
- Phone – 09811901858 / 02717-408546
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.