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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chhotu and Storytelling


I agreed with George -- our 'public speaking' trainer -- even before I had even seen him, leave alone hearing him say: 'If you want to practise voice modulation, try telling stories to kids.' Chhotu, better known as Vidyut Chakrabarti, is my 5 year old nephew. And he loves listening to stories. He listens open-mouthed (the fact which is nefariously made use of by his mom for feeding him when he's unwilling) while you practise every conceivable voice modulation exercise pretending to tell him a story. What you tell him has a simple precondition to satisfy: It should be anything with liberal sprinkling of interesting characters (like kings, queens, demons and dinosaurs). The events don't matter. Event sequences, of course, don't matter too. Lots of figures of speech, and lots of voice modulation.

This time when I went to my native place, he engaged me in some story-telling exercises. And I had my share of funny moments. I enjoyed telling him 'Beauty and the Beast'-like stories. Possibly, I had less than 5 different stories in my kitty. His hunger for stories was inexhaustible though. He kept asking for more stories. To which I answered truthfully that I didn't have anymore stories to tell him. He had an easy solution. He said, no problem tell me one of the old ones. But I had just told him that was not a problem at all. So, I started telling him the whole thing all over again; he started gobbling it with open-mouth with every possible expression of mytery and intrigue on his face. Looking at him no one could've told that he knew the story to the last detail, except when I would, for the sake of novelty, or may out of sheer forgetfulness, miss out on or alter some of the details. He would quickly correct me on those and return back to his perfectly hungrily receptive mode of listening. It was very funny and cute beyond what words can tell!

Another time, when he was behind me to tell him some stories, I tried to avoid accepting that I didn't have any more stories to tell him, by saying, 'I know many stories. But they are for bigger people. You won't understand them.' This was not a problem for him. He said, 'I anyway don't understand much of the stories. I still enjoy them. You tell. No problem.' I found this limitless innocence on the one hand and self-awareness on the other a very uncanny mixture. Not to say, it was very cute again!

Once, I succeeded turning the table on Chhotu. I insisted that at least some time it had to be his turn to tell a story. So, this particular time, he unwillingly agreed. The story he tried telling was that Tenalirama/Birbal/Gopal Bhaad story wherein Tenali finds out that a burglar is hiding in his house waiting for them to go to bed before he would clean up. So, instead of panicking he makes the best out of it. Being aware that his garden needed watering, he tells his wife, making sure that the burglar is within earshot, that he has hidden all their jewels in the garden well. When they go to bed, the burglar goes out and starts pulling out water from the well and throwing them into the garden. He keeps doing it the whole night hoping that eventually the hidden jewels would come up with the water. The garden gets its water. The burglar gets caught in the morning.

Chhotu's version 1: A burglar comes to Tenali's house and starts taking out water from the well and pouring them into the garden. And the garden gets irrigated.

My question: "But why does the burglar come to Tenali's house?"
Chhotu: "Because he wants to steal."
My question: "Then why does he start taking out water from the well."
Chhotu: "!!!!???!!!!"

Chhotu, like a worthy prospective Windows user, tries pressing the restart button, and starts all over again.

Chhotu's version 2: Tenali tells his wife that he has hidden his jewels in the well. The burglar comes and starts pouring water into the garden...
My question: "But why does the burglar pour water into the garden?"
Chhotu: "???!!!! Because he wants to water the garden."
My question: "But why does the burglar want to water Tenali's garden?"
Chhotu: "!!!!????!!!!"

At this point, Chhotu found it all not worth it to explain such petty stuff to me, and went ahead with some other game. What can I say. The story holds its magic in Chhotu's mind sans its logical sequencing of events. I have been wondering eversince, what, if not the logical sequence of events, holds its appeal for a story in the eyes of a child! :)

12 comments:

BWG said...

Quite entertaining!

shilpi said...

truly depicting chhotu!

Pritesh said...

Hahahaha! Beautiful one Sujit! I totally can relate to this story-telling episode. My sister, when she was small, would be so thrilled to listen to "Meera paani bhar laayi, Meera ki matki toot gayi" when told in different tones! Pleasures of small things are best understood by children!!!!!

Ruma said...

It is very well written. One who knows Chottu will automatically associate his character with your passage.I enjoyed reading it as I have always felt after reading your stories,articles etc.Keep on sending such stuffs through email.

Santanu said...

Interesting :) Children (the ones who are still within the borderlines of innocence) have always intrigued me with their queries, their reactions and their simplicity in looking at a particular scenario. We, the supposedly learned individuals tend to frame an opinion or conclusion on anything using our intellectual thought process and taking so much amount of time. And, at the end of the day, sometimes we have found that the solution lies in the simplicity of a childish thought.

Sambaran said...

Very nicely observed and very nicely written. Take a bow.

fuse me said...

Sounds like me as a kid. I have a theory about why it is so. I remember that I had all my facts right, but neither the chronology, nor the logic. The reason for that is simple. Causality is not an inborn trait, it is an acquired one. And what we claim as logic or common sense, is often only a sequence of events, which need not be causal.

fuse me said...

And ya, the affinity to extreme facts are typical for expanding their world of possibilities. So the more bizarre and exaggerated, the more the fun in it. I'm sure Vidyut will turn out to be a dreamer.

tnc said...

haha.. very nice indeed :)

KRSP said...

I dont think many of the grown ups are any different. I listen to AR Rahman songs with the same enthu even if know the entire waveform of his song. I watch trees, clouds and a lot of things with the same zeal every time. I have seen many people who watch the same movie many times though they know the entire story. I have never questioned the logic behind the music of AR Rahman or the beauty of nature. may be nobody questions the logic of a movie too. If someone asked me why a particular song goes that way then I would also give the same expression as master Vidyut! :)

Shruti said...

So funny! I had a good laugh. Thank you, thank Chotu :)

Madhurima said...

Hey Sujit...
wonderfully told. Brought back mememories when i offered to baby sit a friends 8 yr old hyperactive cousin and we began a story abt the green parrot becoming green sitting amidst the green leaves on a big green tree, defied all logic...but cldnt get more entertaining:)