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Kutty Kahani - No small feat
- Janani Murali

December 26, 2020

As much as the world of technology has evolved in lightning speed over the past decade or so, the content that finds its way to our hand held gadgets has often been questionable. Fearing security lapses or exposure to inappropriate visuals, parents have often been wary of what technology has in store for the young. On another level, there has been rising concern about Young India's disconnect from their own civilisational roots. For the few who are lucky to listen to tales of kings, queens, boons and curses from parents and grandparents and those who find their way to learning the Indian arts, a doorway to connecting with the vast cultural knowledge base of our land is easy. For others, the disconnect is a gaping abyss.

These seem to be unconnected concerns at first glance, because tradition and technology have often been viewed as separate entities, almost at opposing ends of the spectrum. But shouldn't technology be harnessed in order that tradition is nurtured, more so in a world that is continually being loaded with more technology? Team Natyarambha and Ananda Shankar Jayant thought as much and connected what seemed like unconnected dots! Thus was born their latest offering Kutty Kahani, a daily series of short videos of stories from India, of India's timeless wisdom, by India's young storytellers, shared digitally. Intending to use storytelling as a means to build values and impart cultural knowledge, Kutty Kahani found instant support from digital partner and from ICCR and SBI, amongst others. And with their own friends telling them these stories, children have found instant connect with the series. Young story tellers from across India, Singapore, Malaysia, UK and USA have created content in multiple arts and languages- talking, singing, dancing, miming and painting about sthalapuranas, handicrafts, folk tales, Bhakthi poetry and more. Embellished with animation by Gunjan Ashtaputre, these videos speak to the young and old alike, endearingly.

As a parent of one of these young story tellers, the process of creating a Kutty Kahani has been eye-opening to me as well. Each parent was given a simple brief - to have our kids pick a favourite "Name-Place-Animal-Thing" and get them to build a favourite Indic story around this. From content to medium to execution, every child has brought in such a wide variety of ideas that parents and teachers who framed these videos have been left in awe. Most of these kids who created the videos and those watching don't know each other but one senses a beautiful camaraderie as they tune in to watch a new kahani every morning, created by one of their 'own'. And as a parent, I am grateful for an experience that has become a movement of sorts- binding together children of diverse regions, languages and cultures with feelings of mutual love - which they will hopefully carry forward into a world that is in much need of harmony. And every day, more adults ping in to say that they are listening in on stories from a language or land that they didn't know! This digital bank of stories is one that we must safeguard and one that must only get richer with every passing day. For each child to become a kutty story teller, finding a simple, fun way to connect to their Indic roots, enriching their world and ours!

So, if you hear a parent today tell you that their child is glued to the screen, and you hear them say it happily, it's probably the kahani for the day!

Janani Murali is a dancer, writer, biologist and ecoprenuer. She heads the performing ensemble at Padmalaya Dance Foundation, Bangalore, writes scripts for dance projects and provides voice-overs for dance-theatre projects.

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