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Re-connecting with Stories

Gopika Jadeja

A two-day seminar on “Re-connecting with Stories” (funded by Katha) and organized by Rita Kothari of St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad drew the college students of Ahmedabad into a fertile debate about the nature of narratives. The presentations dealt with examining how the stories that we have heard as children affect our consciousness and how they re-surface later in our lives in various ways. It raised questions not only about how myths, fables and fairy tales create consciousness but how they sustain themselves and claim our attention through different media.       Anant Pai (or rather Uncle Pai, as he is called by thousands of children in the country), the founder of Amar Chitra Katha, gave a keynote address followed by students sharing what myths, fables, and fairytales meant to them then (in childhood) and how they revisit them now. One of the issues that was brought to the fore was the pedagogical nature of narratives. Mr. Pai revealed that the purpose behind the founding of Amar Chitra Katha was to acquaint Indian children with stories from their history and mythology that they might not otherwise encounter in an urban, English-speaking environment. The idea of the pedagogical nature of narratives was taken up in many of the other presentations.       The students discussed how the stories that they knew as children shaped a worldview that as grown ups they sought to question. They spoke about myths, folk-tales, fables and biblical narratives. The pattern that emerged from their discussion was that while myths and biblical narratives establish that world-view and inculcate certain values, fables and folk-tales serve to question the established order of things. The other presentations raised questions about the construction of gender identity through fairly tales and stereotyping. They also raised concerns about the lack of English language nursery rhymes suitable in the Indian context and the overly orderly nature of the narratives that we pass on to our children and how that ill-equips them to contend with the chaotic reality of life.       One of the most fascinating sessions of the seminar was a visual presentation by A. F. Mathew (MICA, Ahmedabad) who through a panel of photographs on ‘War in Bosnia’ showed students the possibilities of creating political narratives. Furthermore, a group of students from a neighbouring college presented a tribal spoof on the Ramayana. There were also presentations on “Biblical narratives and gender”, “Fairy tales and stereotypes”, “Gender constructs through ...

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