Stories are a very important part of life in any society, in any age and in any part of the world. I just cannot imagine life without stories and story tellers. We grew up listening to stories from our Epics and Puranas. Our grandfather, my father’s father, was the story teller. I can still picture us sitting around him and listening to stories. And that love for reading and listening to stories continued.
Devdutt Pattanaik in his book, ‘Shikhandi and other stories they don’t tell you’ tells us stories in India are never original: they are always retold. For example, the Gita we read today- the narration by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra in the battlefield of Kurukshetra is a modern interpretation of a 700 verse dialogue from a 1,00,000 verse epic called Mahabharata. It was first recorded 2000 years ago and that was recorded much earlier in the Naimasha forest to Shaunak by Ugrasrava Sauti . He heard it from his father ,Lomaharshana, who heard it from Vaishampayana. He heard it from his teacher, Vyasa who narrated to his scribe, Ganesha. We have to allow for transmission loss.’ :))
When I read that, I think of what A K Ramanujan has said about our Ramayana in his essay, Three hundred Ramayanas, ‘The Rama story is told in so many languages that it makes one gasp. Through the centuries each of these languages have hosted more than one telling of the story. Sanskrit alone contains some twenty-five or more tellings belonging to various narrative genres like epics, poetry, puranas, plays, dance dramas, folk traditions and so on. He says it would be interesting to sort out how these hundreds of tellings of a story in different cultures, languages and religious traditions relate to each other : what gets translated, transplanted and transposed.’
Thoughts about stories and story tellers came to mind as I finished reading a delightful book called ‘ Blue -Tales of Reddumone, The Two faced by M R Sharan. The last section of the book is all about story tellers. People who listened to the story teller felt something change in their life, something stirring awake.
We too felt the same when we listened to stories and enjoyed living in a beautiful world of imagination.In that world everything is possible. Our Epics and Puranas are such an integral and living part of our lives. They are thousands of years old but continue to inspire every generation. They are not rigid in their tellings and people through the ages have been able to relate to them. They represent every facet of life – the good , the bad and the ugly. I think that is what has kept them alive.
( The photo is of my father with his great grandson, life goes on.)