This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Abhinita Mohanty. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Will Storytelling Disappear?

More from Abhinita Mohanty

By Abhinita Mohanty:

It is widely believed that one’s personality is framed during one’s childhood. The psychological structuring and attitude patterns invariably are the culmination of the socialization process that starts within the family of a child. Ideas that are imparted become opinions, ethics that are taught constructs the value system of the personality and rituals shape the religious beliefs. Thus, the way socialization is done, determines the type of culture of a nation and gives it a distinct identity. The question that I want to analyse is how the process of socialization is initiated into a little, inquisitive child? There are many answers to this question but I want to speak about the ‘art of storytelling’ that is not only declining as a verbal mode but also it has been substituted through newer forms in the globalized India. Not long ago, when I was a child, my best memories still circles around the stories that my grandmother would narrate me verbally. Those were the days! Through long afternoons and cold nights, they lulled me into the arms of a dream-filled sleep. It relieved my mind, shaped my ideas, gave wings to my imagination and unfolded an innocent view of my cultural ethos. The folk tales that my grandma told me made me see a world beyond my constrained surroundings of home and school. They came quite spontaneously from her mouth, with a serene flow. Storytelling sessions were my first avenues of socialization .A folk story, from whichever region, has its own unique fragrance. My grandma would swiftly move from mythology to magic, from fabled kingdoms and queens to the humble farmer. She would swiftly adapt stories to suit my childish moods with amazing skill and dexterity. Storytelling is an art that is dying a fast death and that’s what makes me aware of how much we have left behind in our pursuit of ‘advanced entertainment’.


I remembered every story she told me and even today when I am home, I pester her to tell me these stories. When an event is narrated in the form of a story by someone it has a greater impact on the child than the stories that are told on televisions and virtually seen online. Alone with knowing the society and learning the child also develops his/her listening capabilities and the ability to concentrate and develop within him/her self patience. Today the world has largely become concentrated within pictures and ideas gets constrained within these pictures. Children listen to videos on the net or watch cartoons that often take them far from reality instead of making them a part of it. I see the children today watching the western cartoon channels online as their mothers hurriedly feed them. As they will grow up they will find a ‘disjuncture’ between the values these characters impart and the real ‘oriental society’ in which they will live and grow up.

In the folklore that I heard about the humble farmers, poor villagers, kings, gods and their ire, etc. brought me closer to the world that I confronted as an adult. While listening to these stories as a wide eyed innocent listener I did not had even the faintest idea that it gave about the power relations in Indian society or the class status or for the matter the religious orientations. Years later, as I took Sociology as a course for my graduation I realized that these stories reflected our social realities. Although my grandmother can never comprehend complex terms like ‘class’ she gave the idea of its existence. But watching ‘Scooby-do’ and ‘Tom-n-Jerry’ will only entertain the children and make them gulp down their food easily but will not impart the novelty of knowledge. Some of the most wonderful folk stories are never written, they are passed through the mouths for generations because the intensity of their narration was so powerful that it is remembered even after a child becomes an adult. They gets institutionalized within us.

We all grow up and ruffle all the feathers of childhood. In pursuit of studies, career and family, those childhood years seem like a dream or from another life. But no matter how busy one becomes or how far one travels, most of us cling to the nostalgia of our childhood. Looking back, I remember those days that I have spent hearing all those quaint little stories from my elders. Not only did those stories comfort me then, during bland afternoons or cold nights, they formed the connecting link to my childhood. They introduced me to an altogether different world full of starry eyed joys.It would all start quite spontaneously. I would go and pester my grandma, ‘Tell me a story’ — a short, peremptory demand, a demand which has been made by millions of little Indian children since the beginning of civilization. And then the story would begin, ‘Once upon a time….

Technology has made the world exciting yet too mechanical. It has affected social institutions like the joint family, shattering them first into large nuclear families and then into small nuclear families consisting of just two to four members. For many children, the ‘grandparent’ has become quite an alien! The kids are brought up on a diet of YouTube,  Pogo and cartoon network. Moreover, when the child’s grandparents sit by themselves in far flung homes and parents remain busy in their duty, who really has the time?

Today, when I watch my cousin’s children gulping down their dinner absorbed in the latest ‘Tintin’ or the latest ‘pokemon’ videos on YouTube, I wonder how can they know what they are missing? They have an astounding number of choices but divorced from culture, reality, depth and humanity .I remember when I was very small and made faces at my food, my mother would tell me tales that made me gulp my dinner without even realizing it! Even when I was too young to understand her every spoken word! The sound of her stories had a unique hold over me which cannot be compared to digital entertainment.

Materialistic values, disintegration of the joint family, kinship ties, time constraints, availability of alternatives have all contributed to the decline of folklore and the art of storytelling. I assume that the practice of storytelling and folk tales started in earlier times, when people gathered around fires to save themselves from biting cold. In order to distract themselves and make children sleep, they used to weave stories from their imaginations. This ability of man to imagine has led to unbelievable strides in the field of technology today .It is not the emperors that gave birth to history and culture; rather, our culture and history was created by those villagers beside the fireplace. In future, it won’t be democracy or technology that will give birth to the tradition of a country, rather the ideas that bring man closer to his own kind and his environment.

Folk tales are stories that have been passed from generation to generation, inextricably intertwined with our culture and our past, where our identity is derived from. The parents of this generation are well aware of these stories but many do not have the time or will to pass it on to their children. I fear that when this transmission has almost died, the folk stories will also die. Will this be the end? Time can only tell, but I still hope and imagine that even today in some far off remote corners of our society there is still a parent or a grandparent telling stories to an inquisitive child (like I once was!) and saving this art of storytelling from being buried in the graveyard of history.

You must be to comment.
  1. vishalbheeroo

    It’s an interesting point that you made. The last edition of Times’ print copy is testimony to that but I still prefer to have a fresh copy of Times of India or Harry Potter book along with coffee rather go digital. The joy of reading a book cannot be quantified.

  2. Deepa Nair

    In my opinion, “Storytelling” will never disappear. Let’s consider the fact that “everyday is a story”.

More from Abhinita Mohanty

Similar Posts

By Vaishnavi Gond

By Survivors Against TB

By હર્બનશ સિંહ ਹਰਬੰਸ ਸਿੰਘ हरबंश सिंह

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below