Stories we tell

Updated: May 12, 2019, 13:38 IST | Jane Borges

A husband-wife duo is conducting storytelling workshops for parents, so that they can learn what came naturally to our dadis

Stories we tell
The StoryStack comprises 24 cards that provide clues to stitch together a story

Telling stories, and more so, concisely, is second nature to Satish deSa. Having spent 21 years in advertising, from 1995 to 2016, as a copywriter, "fitting stories into 30 and 60 seconds" for television, meant he could sell anything to anyone. All he needed was a brief from a client. A similar 'brief' came from his daughter, Zoe, when she was three years old. Disinterested in the Snow Whites, Cinderellas and Queen Elsas of her time, she asked her father to tell a story of the fan that was whirring above her head. "He did make up a very good story," Satish's wife Sheetal, a teacher with Tridha school, recalls.

It was at that point that a window opened up for deSa. "I discovered a magical place, where everything was believable: fairies existed, animals could speak, a tree could walk, and rainbows could enter homes and play with you." When his son Zac was born, this world grew bigger and so did his imagination. "The look on their faces when I told them a story, was overwhelming. It would lift my spirits. By not reading out of a book, but telling them stories face-to-face, I forged a strong connection with my children. When I asked my friends to try the same with their kids, they were reluctant." The most common excuse was that they "lacked creativity". "But, books inhibit imagination and make the mind lazy," he argues.

Satish deSa and his wife Sheetal started the storytelling company WagTales. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Satish deSa and his wife Sheetal started the storytelling company WagTales. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

It's what compelled deSa, who has long quit advertising, to start WagTales, a company that is hoping to redefine storytelling for both children and adults, with his wife. One of their most regular workshops is Once Upon a Parent, a three-hour storytelling session, in which the couple shares tips, techniques and tools with parents to help them create their own stories. "It's like physiotherapy for their imagination," says deSa.

The session usually opens with each parent introducing themselves and sharing the earliest story they ever heard, as far back as they can remember, about a family member, themselves, or even the story of their birth. The idea, says deSa, is to "bring to the attention of the participants, the warmth they experienced recalling their stories, and especially, the warmth they felt for the person who told them the story". What revisiting that story does to the brain is also important. "The human mind tends to assimilate stories, sieve them and hold their essence in our souls. It can evoke a feeling, an emotion, a memory. Hence, stories are good."

DeSa conducts a workshop for adults

DeSa conducts a workshop for adults

As an exercise, parents are given a small bag, comprising an assortment of objects: feather, leaf, pebble, a piece of string, or a bead. They are then asked to look at these objects with "alien eyes". For instance, to see the feather as a bird, and the string as a dragon, and to weave a story around it. The results, says deSa, have never been disappointing, with many interesting stories coming out of the bag. "What we are doing is only making creativity accessible to parents." DeSa is also training to be a kindergarten teacher at Tridha, which follows the Waldorf curriculum — also known as Steiner education, based on the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner — in which cultivating the creative and artistic spirit is encouraged.

For those who cannot make it to the weekend workshops, deSa, with the help of an art director friend, also created a WagTales StoryStack, comprising 24 cards, in three different colours (green, blue and yellow) that provide clues to stitch a story. One stack asks you to pick an object (rock, for instance), give it a desire (wants to fly), give it emotions (happiness/sadness), set it out on a journey and get it to meet new friends on the way. DeSa plans to launch a YouTube tutorial as well to teach parents to use the stack. "We want parents to customise stories for their child because only they know what works best for them."

For workshop details: wagtales@wayrious.biz / 9820250619

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