Like I’ve mentioned in another post on the lost art of storytelling, storytelling is one of my passions and I eagerly look for opportunities to regale (more like bore) an audience with my imaginative musings. Generally its the unsuspecting house-help, or the bored husband, the reticent parents and siblings or the school friend who reached out for a 5 minute catch up call and didn’t know what was coming her way. My monologue is relentless and unentertaining for the most part… and for most, but for the past few nights, I’ve gained another audience, one who’s eager to listen and quips with her own two pence – my daughter.
I am glad to say that she has finally started showing interest in bedtime stories. Heretofore, she was only interested in sleeping next to me while I sang to her (generally one of her favourite rhymes or songs). So for the past few nights she and I lay down, in the dark, so our voices and the silhouettes of objects in the dark take on whimsical forms and invent stories. I narrate, she improvises, more often makes me repeat things, and together we fashion story after story. We have props too! All her ninnis (her preferred term for stuffed toys) become characters. The pillows transform into mountains or walls, and our limbs become slaadi (slides) or jhool (jhoola or swings) or paant (plants). We create our own world in that queen sized bed.
Last night was a milestone of sorts because she interjected with her own additions. I told her the story of a baby monkey who took his food to the top of the tree because he wanted to look at the world from up there, inspite of Mumma Monkey’s misgivings. Here my daughter intercepted, “Mumma, a-pplane”. So I added an airplane in the story and how it zoomed up in the sky while baby monkey ate his nana (banana). Then she wanted a ‘buddyy’ (birdy) in the story too, so the monkey saw an airplane and a birdy who had fluorescent wings and a red beak (I was using her stuffed parrot). Then she wanted hunty-hunty in the story (kids!), so I added Humpty-Dumpty who sat next to baby monkey on the tree (my legs) and had a great fall. At this point I flung hunty-hunty, another stuffed toy, down my legs which sent her into peals of laughter.
We kept adding creature after creature for the fictitious baby monkey to behold and she kept giggling as I introduced those creatures into the story, each having their own names and voices. The story culminated in the baby monkey jumping up and down the tree and falling down, like Mumma Monkey feared, and the doctor telling Mumma Monkey over a call “no more monkeys jumping on the bed” (another one of her favourite nursery rhymes). She laughed through the whole episode, she enjoyed it and then she slept peacefully afterwards (whereas generally bedtime resembles wartime for my household).
I can sense that she relates to these stories because they contain elements that her 2 year old infantile imagination already understands. She doesn’t know yet what a princess is, or what magic or fairies or dragons are, so all those traditional bedtime stories are pretty much a waste on her. But what gladdens me more is the fact that she is participating in the story, living it while I narrate it, adding her own inventions to it, thereby encouraging her tiny imagination to burn brighter with her own creations.
The aim of storytellers is not just to tell a story, but let the audience live it, feel it, imagine it for themselves without the crutches of borrowed imaginations, and colour the story with their own creations. My job as a storyteller is accomplished. I look forward to many storytelling episodes like these, where she and I will be both participants and recipients.
© Pradita Kapahi, 2016