Sonali Bhatia collates snapshots of the various storytelling sessions organised at Atta Galatta over the past years.
They take you to lands far away, and a time long gone. They take you to realms unknown, and places all too familiar. They help you escape outside yourself, and they make you delve deep within. They are the storytellers – and they keep you enthralled, hold you spell bound, as they weave their tales with their words, expressions and gestures.
The last seven years at Atta Galatta have seen storytellers in various genres, in myriad languages, evoke emotions in audiences ranging in age from two years to eighty-two years. Some of these storytellers are professionals, others are hobbyists who have gained some mastery over telling a tale. Some meet regularly, once a month, others gather when a particular event is announced. Some share true stories, others narrate fiction. There are original anecdotes and there are legends re-told. Some stand solo, their voices echoing off the pillars, others involve the audience in relating the tale. The characters in the saga could be people, animals, magical creatures – or even objects. Some throw in lesser-known tidbits about well-known characters – from Scooby-doo to Duryodhana. All of them have one experience in common – for a space of time, they are in the grip of something bigger than themselves, something that will resonate with each listener long after the actual event has concluded, the exact memory has faded.
Why are stories significant? In this day of virtual connection, why is it important to gather at Atta Galatta, to listen, to participate? Is it because stories help pass information in a memorable way? Is it because they increase empathy? Is it because they give an understanding of things outside the grasp of ordinary comprehension? Or is it simply because it meets the basic human need – to get together, to talk, to laugh a little, shout a little, listen a little and cry a little, in unison? To celebrate life, with all its imperfections, foibles and eccentricities … and to be, for that moment, for that hour, united in the experience of the senses and the upheaval of the emotions, to be one with everyone around.
Sonali Bhatia is a Bengaluru based writer and storyteller.