Once upon a time…

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By Tinky Ningombam
Everyone loves a good story. Be it as a kid or as an adult, a good story always captivates our mind. All of us have always had that one friend that tells a story better or the grandmother who have told us bedtime stories. Who has not loved stories while growing up? But when we were kids, it was easier. We would have easily believed when our parents have told us that those who lie would get haunted by ghosts at night. But how do you explain that to kids nowadays who probably know better than us? Kids get better information download now. And it is about time we come up with more intelligent stories.
Stories need to answer to the complicated questions that kids have now. Stories were easier; more of the ones that have been told to kids have been moral or cautionary. Whether, of the kid who got lost in the woods and got captured by beasts or children who have told lies and got eaten by wolves. Children stories have been much about conforming them to adult supervision. Children’s stories are not far removed from gruesome details. Time and again several critics have spoken against it. And so did Lewis Carroll who in his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, mentions that Alice had read of “several nice little histories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked “poison”, it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

Story-telling is an acquired art. And adults need to use them more effectively. Kids believe in stories more eagerly and have a more unrestricted imagination which is still innocent and unbiased by life’s harsh realities. Mankind has spun many a great yarn for different purposes with the memorable ones being those we heard as kids. The story teller and the listener form a shared emphatic connection through the story. When kids are told moral stories, they begin by putting themselves in the shoes of the characters and through these stories simulate in their minds the stories of the good and the bad virtues. They begin to imagine the story through simulation and take the moral or the take-away from the story.  These stories tell them that villains have bad behaviors which are detrimental for the society while the good heroes with moral virtues will live happily ever after.

We grew up with our story telling, family dinners with people narrating their day’s events. Phunga waaris are a dying tradition but they have taken newer forms of bedtime story-telling for kids. These stories become experiential for them. Stories that start with Thaina Thaina Mamangeida(Once upon a time…) have been universal and have been told and re-told across time and ages. And across cultures, we have used stories as a vessel to hold forms of information. Stories about good virtues of mankind, heroic feats, supernatural activities, famous biographies have been passed on through generations with story-telling.

In our own tradition, oral story-telling is an important tradition. History has been recorded in the stories that get passed on. Legends, folklores and myths are exemplary in defining the past culture and history of civilizations. It also reinforces cultural values and help in defining cultural identity.

Psychologists and neurologists have debated on the co-relation of humans with story-telling. Story-telling has been used in creating social relations and for survival.  In Jonathan Gottschall’s new book, “The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.” he espouses that human beings are natural storytellers. He says that humans like stories so much that they try to turn everything into stories just because they love narratives so much.

And does every story have a take-away? Well, apparently so.  Humans tend to try finding meanings of a story and get restless when they fail to.

(The author agrees with Brian P. Cleary when he said “Whatever story you’re telling, it will be more interesting if, at the end you add, “and then everything burst into flames.” Enough said.)

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