SRAVASTI DATTA APRIL 07, 2017 00:00 IST
Lavanya Prasad's project Roots encourages the elderly to narrate their life experiences
Lavanya Prasad inherited a love for stories from her grandfather. She grew up to become a storyteller but then she is much more than that. She is a documenter of stories of the elderly. Lavanya was initially an electrical/electronics engineer. "I got married and had a family. Teaching was always a passion. So I started working with nursery children and taught them by telling stories. They enjoyed the stories so much that they went home and told stories."
It wasn't until she took a small break that Lavanya seriously considered becoming a storyteller. "I discovered so many things when I researched. Ideas would pop up." For two years, she eased into storytelling by conducting sessions with children around her apartment. She started Talescope, which conducts training for children and adults, in 2014. "I wondered how I could take storytelling to adults. A college friend got in touch with me for conducting a training session, related to stories, with a corporate." The session was a success. Lavanya then decided to take storytelling to senior citizens. "I approached Nightingales Trust in J.P. Nagar and Silver Talkies."
She observed that personal stories were a powerful way to encourage the elderly to tell stories of their younger days. "I shared a childhood memory with them. I had my grandfather's rubber stamp that had triggered in them what they treasured in their lives. The next session was to try to make them write their stories. I gave them activities to help them to find memories from their lives."
It was at home, though, that Lavanya found the person who would lead her to start Roots , a project that brings alive stories of the elderly. "I started with my great grandfather-in-law, which inspired the family book, The Saga of Seshi Paati (grandmother)."
While she inspired the elderly to tell their stories, she made some exciting discoveries. "A Bengali couple said their ancestors came from Pakistan, but had to move to India. This happened before the Partition."
Singing songs also inspired them. "Whenever I sing Punyakoti, a Kannada folk song, I have people tell me they used to listen to that song on radio! It was a hit during their time. And they would all sing along with me." Then she tells the story of a man who made a sketch of his wife when he first met her. The sketch, which he has with him to this day, is his prized possession. "He was very quiet during the session. It was later that he approached me and narrated how he loved and missed his wife." There were many such anecdotes. "A lady recalled possessing the first portable typewriter and another man said he treasured the paperweights he had."
Lavanya stays true to her mission of storytelling. "Talescope is a play on 'telescope'. My endeavour is to bring clear visions through stories."