Reminiscing Good Old Days: The Dying Art Of Storytelling In India


Storytelling is an art form which has been transcending from one generation to the next since centuries. However, in recent times, as most of us are stuck in our busy schedules, we hardly find any time to keep such sessions with our children or our family members.

In the Indian tradition and culture, greater importance has been given to the art of story-telling. From Rajasthani tradition of storytelling through puppets to Mughal tradition of Dastangoi, there is a unique and an enchanting cultural essence which can be felt.

The Rajasthani style, well known as Kathputli (puppet) show, is well embedded in our heritage and folklore. A Bollywood film, Paheli, brought the prestige of Kathputli shows to cinematic presentation, where eminent actors Nazeerudin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah gave the puppets their voice.

Dastangoi, on the other hand meets the tradition of Urdu/Hindi storytelling. The Dastangoi troupe travels to different parts of India and perform this art form. To encourage the youth to take this culture forward, the Dastangoi troupe also gives three days long workshops to youngsters.

Very few people like Mahmood Farooqui are making efforts to take the rich art of storytelling to people. But when Farooqui motivates youngsters to follow this rich legacy by joining his troupe, there is a realization that strikes. A realization that people aren’t giving a blinds’ eye to such art forms but they only face time constrains of not being able to actively follow their interests, due to tight work schedules. Still there are people working as professionals in different companies, while at the same time following their passion of storytelling. It is tough for them to turn their passion into profession because in my view, in India, art field doesn’t receive as much importance as commerce or science fields do.

Parents often don’t advice their children to chose  humanities subjects because they know that this field isn’t very well paid. There is a lot of struggle involved in it, the parents feel. Veteran theatre director Mr. Arvind Gaur from Delhi based Asmita Theatre Group says, “If you can give five years to engineering, seven to ten years to become a doctor then why don’t you give sometime to theatre artists to explore their art? Why do you expect that you can become a good theatre artist after performing few plays? Give time to arts and enjoy the journey.”

Although storytelling has kept its place alive because of theatre groups in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, there needs to be faith in the actors to make it their profession. The morale of these actors can be uplifted only by the audience which acts as a motivator; once a person enters in any theatre in Delhi this enthusiasm of audience can’t be missed.

There needs to be an acceptance of artists who aspire to tell stories to the world. The positive spirit of Delhites needs to reach other cities as well where theatre is a dying art and so is the case with the art of storytelling. One can learn from Rajasthan and the manner the artists don’t consider it only their profession but are proud for bringing to light the rich legacy of their state so magnificently.

Katputli Colony has been in Delhi since 1950’s near Shadipur Depot. This colony has been a home to over 2,800 families of artists, musicians, dancers, singers and magicians. The singers for the Satyamev Jayate television shows’ title song were from this colony, and these artists have made it clearer in the minds of people that even with less or no support they can bring their dreams to meet reality. The government has provided them with apartments to live now, giving them a sigh of relief for years of dedication and hard work they have put into their art.

There should be encouragement given to budding artists who give so many reasons to people to understand the beauty of the art- of all sorts.

Storytelling also starts from home. It’s high time for people with tight schedules to take sometime off from the virtual world and grace their family members and friends with stories from life. These stories can be moral stories such as the Panchtantra to raise the moral values in children or story of Arabian Nights or there can be narration of the stories by Rumi. Moreover, it depends on one’s interests to narrate the stories or epics of one’s own choice.

India has been blessed by great poets and seers. One can read the stories written by them and even enact them on stage. The poetry and short stories of Rabindranath Tagore can make one’s day and give reasons to readers to introspect. Kabir was a great poet, and one should read his works to feel the beauty and honesty with which he penned down his poems, which are also worth treasuring.

The art of storytelling shouldn’t be suppressed with the rise of the virtual world. It should be passed on from one generation to the next; as a result of which the bond between family members and friends shall become even stronger.



Gagandeep Singh Vaid

Image Source: The Viewspaper