‘The epics reassure us that we are not alone in our struggles’

Ambika Shaligram
Friday, 1 February 2019

Storyteller Erica Taraporevala and author Dola Dasgupta will be re-telling stories from the Mahabharata at an event today. Taraporevala tells us what she has learnt from the epic

Indians, young and old, have grown up listening to snatches of the stories from our epics — the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Some of us have read the epics, whereas others have heard or watched them in some form or the other. 

At a storytelling event in the city hosted by Timeless Tales this evening, Dola Dasgupta and Erica Taraporevala will be presenting ‘Hidden Gems from Mahabharata’. Taraporevala tells us that on a deeper level, the epics guide us through our moral dilemmas and situations that we find ourselves caught in. Here’s more about the event...

- When did you read the Mahabharata? And, how often do you go back to it?
Like most Indian children, I grew up with stories from the Mahabharata and knew them long before I read the epic, around the age of nine. The characters of the Mahabharata were like relatives in my childhood imagination. At that age and till long after, they remained stories of other people outside of me. But with age and a certain amount of inner reflection, one knows that these are not external people, but different parts of our own selves dressed in story.

When we honour stories, listen to them deeply, we don’t have to return to them, it is the stories that come back to us, time and again. They rise from the hidden depths of our psyche to guide us at the various crossroads of our lives, to help us deal with the roller coaster ride that is life, to bring fresh perspectives to old and stagnant situations, to bring closure where it is needed and to heal us and make us whole again and again. 

Above all, the epics, reassure us that we are not alone in our struggles. There have been gods and demons, heroes and heroines that have had to grapple with the very same issues that we struggle with in our little lives.

- When you say ‘Hidden Gems from Mahabharata’, what does it mean? Who are these people on whom little is known?
The hidden gems refers not to the characters, but to the insights and experiences that the stories leave  the listener with. When we look into a kaleidoscope, we see a beautiful pattern. When we take the same kaleidoscope, with the same pieces of broken glass, and twist it ever so slightly, we get to see a totally new, equally beautiful design! The stories, like the kaleidoscope, are the same, the characters, like the glass pieces, are known, but a slight twist in the view point results in a totally new gem, a totally new beautiful experience. 

- Currently, there have been many attempts at re-telling of the epic. Is this story event also a similar exercise? If so, will you be telling stories of what you have learnt from the epic? Or will you be narrating any contemporary author’s works?
Epics have been told and retold from the beginning of time, and the stories we choose to tell are those that have touched us deeply, transformed us and become a part of our psyche, irrespective of how current or ancient the contributing authors are. 

- Are you looking to engage with any particular age group of the audience?
While anyone can hear and enjoy the stories at a basic level, a certain amount of maturity is required to get the subtle nuances of these stories. The preferred age group is 18 plus. 

- Would the story-telling be interspersed with other art forms like live painting/music?
These are deep transformative stories. Telling and listening to them requires a certain amount of mindfulness. Adding other points of interest will act as distractions in this case and take away from the joyful experience of listening to these stories. Once the story starts, hopefully both the teller and the listener will disappear and only the stories will remain.

Attend ‘Hidden Gems from Mahabharata’ at Inscape Cowork, Lane C, Koregaon Park, on Feb 2, 6-8 pm

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