Sourcebook of tales for creative communication | Daily News


Sourcebook of tales for creative communication


In 1993, an Indian educationist cum folklorist brought out a collection of tales related to birds, beasts and humans titled as ‘Listen to the Animals’. The compiler educationist is known as Shobita Punja, who introduced her collection in the following words:

“The stories in this book were all written or told to me by my grandfather, SG Pathan. When I was a little girl, he used to let me sit on his lap and he would tell me stories. They were stories about animals and people about this and hat and from here and there.

The stories were about kindness and friendship, how people are and how we should behave.”

As a reader may observe the stories included are written in simple English expression common to any community that had received a basic English education. In this collection, there are ten simple stories. They are written in a manner not only to read, to obtain training in the use of language but also to recreate in terms of communication exercises such as ‘storytelling’, reconstruction and also to be used as additional rewritten material for radio plays, television visuals, playlets and puppetry.

As such, the compiler creator Shobita Punja paved the way for the development of classroom and individual skills as far as possible as individual creators. The reader is also expected to read the stories aloud. Compiler advises the child reader to ask the parents, grandparents, elder brothers and sisters to join in the creative function. I felt, as a reader, that once these stories are read by a person they enable an inner skill to gauge the memory and/or the retentive power.

I once tested this with this a group of individuals who so keenly listened to me when I narrated in my own words the stories as written by Punja. I found and gauged that my experiment had yielded good results. I further tested the same by reinterpreting the story titled ‘How the Kingfisher got its colours’ as a radio sound production. The content of the story goes far back to a time when the birds, as well as the beasts, could speak recalling our Jātaka tales like Vessantara Jātaka where a queen mother who had lost her children speaks to birds and beasts to know where they are.

The story too rests on the need for human and humane judgement when the kingfisher mother comes to know that the eggs laid by her are stolen by a crow and put in the nest of the crow. The judgement comes as a wonder when the kingfisher helps a princess who had lost her gold ring when taking a bath in the deep pond. The kingfisher dives into the water exhibiting the onlookers a gold ring from the muddy depth.

I felt that the story is found in many folklore sources written and orally transmitted n prose and verse. Perhaps as a certain teacher pointed out, the same story is presently found as animated visual. Punja, the storyteller educationist takes up to the unknown mysterious past and brings us to the more demassified entity of the world of technology. In the direction, this looks more a sourcebook for creative communication.

On reading these stories, I felt that they could be used in the teaching process of comparative communication studies in Orientalism and Occidentalism with special reference to narratology and utilised for social progress down the centuries. They could also be used as teaching material for cross-cultural studies as the groups of animals are represented at times as human groups possessive of certain cultural identities.

The tales could also be compared with those of the Aesopian types and the tales as found in classical Sanskrit works like Hitopadesa and Panchatanra to cite just two examples. In certain countries like China and India, the study of anecdotes, tales and parables occupy and play a vital role in the teaching of ethics, behaviour patterns and theories in the development process.

‘The Tiger and the Farmer’s Wife’ is a good example of this goal. In this tale, a farmer who comes to the paddy field near the jungle is threatened by a tiger that is fierce and cruel. The tiger is driven away by the wife who enters the scene in a disguised manner, resembling a more powerful shooter of tigers. The wisdom or the strategy as played by the wife is representative of this human behaviour. This tale, I felt, could be twisted and turned to teach human developmental paradigms.

They include such factors as Ignorance Vs Intelligence, Participation Vs Isolation etc. Furthermore, I felt that these tales could as well be translated and/or adapted to suit to teach the essence of cultural traits and living values. As Margaret Mead pointed out in her celebrated work ‘Culture and Commitment’ no culture is devoid of folktales handed down centuries, either as oral transmission or as cultural legacies. It is the role of the teachers and creators to observe the strength of the inner meanings to preserve them as heritage.

What Punja has performed is just the right thing which is commendable. As most modern-day folklorists point out, culture in the modern world needs living folklore. The basic requirements of such a genre are the use of the avoidable media channels to preserve and sustain the interest on the knowledge of folk material transmitted primarily through memory and practice rather than by printed page.

Each story in the collection is illustrated well by a well known Indian artist named Mario de Miranda. By way of linking two generations of storytelling, the compiler Punja states: I loved my grandfather very much and I have always loved his stories. I wish that you too could hear him tell them. As such, this collection looks a gift from one generation to another.

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