by Anupama Krishnakumar
They call me the teller of stories, a blessed and extraordinary one in fact. I come from a strong lineage of oral storytellers. I began telling tales when I was 18. I am 50 now. And I still am going on. I feed hope into people’s minds through personally-crafted stories, tailor-made for every person. I’ll tell you how it works. They, the hope seekers, as I call them, wait in long queues outside my humble hut (that I have fondly christened the Storyteller’s Hut) and sit across me to share their fears and worries. In the pale glow of a candle and among cups of tea, I listen to them with my eyes closed, trying to understand the extent of hope that I should feed them, wrapped like a gift inside my stories.
I am sure you want to ask me: Now, aren’t you actually filling people’s hearts and minds with false hope? You see, that’s the beauty. My words, my stories come true. I am just a point they are meant to cross in their journey to their destiny. I am the agent of hope meant to correct the course of their life. I happen only in the lives of people I am meant to happen.
Once, there was this lady who came over. Pregnant again after three miscarriages, she was filled with fear that the fourth one would meet the same fate. I believe there’s a reason why she came to me only the fourth time. My story of hope for her came almost immediately to my lips. I told her of a woman and her husband having a beautiful conversation about the dreams for their child once she tells him she is pregnant. That’s the first time and they are full of hope and joy. But then it wasn’t meant to be. Then it happened again. And again. By the fourth time, she didn’t even tell him, this woman in my story. Her heart went dry with fear and hopelessness. She visited the gynaecologist like it was some drab routine. After a check, she asked, her heart pounding loud, “Doctor, heartbeat?” The doctor smiled and uttered the magical words “Yes. All good.” The woman before me wept when I finished the story. A year later, she brought her beautiful little daughter to meet me.
Another time, a middle-aged man who had lost his wife and son (and his own legs) in an accident visited my hut. I weaved the story of a man who lost his family in a freak accident and who himself went into coma for a period of three months. When the man in my story woke up, his mind and heart exploded with helplessness on realising that his family had passed and he stood all alone, like a lonely tree stump in a scathingly hot desert. The desert called life. He wept for days together consumed by the memories of his wife, son and daughter – their precious faces and their priceless laughter echoing endlessly in the dark chambers of his mind. It took him months of silence and retrospection to understand that his life and recovery were miracles…gifts, not meant to be wasted away brooding. So one evening, as he sat pensively looking at dark clouds gathering outside his window, he decided he would bring a purpose to his life and revived his passion for music. The man who listened to his hope story with his head bent down as I spoke, eventually looked up at me. And when he did, I saw a flicker of hope in his eyes. This hope-seeker now finds peace in teaching music to children.
From young students to lovelorn young men and women to people worn down by age, I have seen them all. To those fearing examinations, I have infused hope and said evaluations aren’t the end of the world. To men and women who were deeply in love, only that it wasn’t reciprocated, I have told them stories of coming together. For old men and women who haven’t seen their children and grandchildren in years, I have told them that an instant recognition and an affectionate hug from a grandchild is a sign of hope. And for all those fearing death, I have told stories giving them the hope that death is not an end, but a journey, an escape from the material world if you want to think of it so. You know, that’s the thing with stories. Stories make the hardest of truths and realities accessible to a listener. Stories make life more discernible, approachable and relatable. Stories are containers of human hope.
These days there’s so much horror everywhere. Terror. Racism. Caste-driven crimes. Crimes against women. Children’s safety issues. Climate change. Environmental problems. Materialism. Disease. Hunger. Poverty. People have incessantly asked me what world are we leaving for our children. What’s the hope for humans? Are we collectively hurtling towards disaster? Their questions are filled with dread. I do my best to alleviate their pain and fear. I tell them stories of what I believe are the only ways forward in these difficult times: love, solidarity, understanding and right action. And now, more than ever, I hope the stories taking birth inside the storyteller’s hut will come true. For the sake of the world. For the sake of humankind.