Monday, June 6, 2016

Lost stories

For a long time, story times have been exciting for both you and me. I always had a sense of pride in telling my own stories. It allowed me to convey what I wanted to tell more elegantly. However when creating stories became harder, I ended up taking the standard stories with little or no modifications at all. Now I have even exhausted them all. Or possibly now I have lost the pride and enthusiasm in creating the new ones. In my work, we often discourage people re-inventing the same thing. That is just waste of time, effort, mis-placed pride and often dis-respect to the hard work done by others. There are many times where I also thought the same about my stories. When people have already spent substantial time in creating good stories, why invent my own? So I wasn't that interested in telling a new story today, but I couldn't find anything readily available in my mind as well. Some times remembering stories is more difficult than creating one! So I started telling the story of Anirudh's imaginary appa.

Once upon a time there was an Appa with two kids. They always used to pester him about a new story before going to bed. Appa told them a new story everyday without failing. However in few years Appa's brain couldn't produce any more new stories. Appa told them 'maga, I have no more stories left to tell you. From today onwards you will have to learn to sleep without any stories'.  But the kids weren't ready to accept that. They insisted to hear the story before sleeping. Appa got very sad about himself and told them. 'Ok, I have lost all my stories now, I will have to go and search where I have lost all those stories' and went out in search of the stories. The kids weren't expecting that. They were shocked to see their Appa going out in search of stories. They started crying 'No Appa, we will sleep without the story, please come back, please come back'. But Appa couldn't hear their cries. He kept on going faster and faster. 

He crossed the village. There was a big river, he crossed that river and went to another village and crossed that too. Like that he crossed several villages and rivers, but still couldn't find any stories. Then he found a big forest. He went inside the forest in search of stories. It was very very dark inside the forest. He was too scared of staying there alone for long. However he wasn't ready to go back without the stories. He kept on moving in the forest. After some time he came near a cave. Inside the cave he heard somebody telling a story. It was an intelligent fox with three cubs. Appa had never heard that story before and he was surprised to hear that from a fox. It was very interesting and entertaining. As the story finished, Appa couldn't control his sleep and fell asleep near the cave.

Next day morning Appa got up and thought of going back. But he had only heard one new story. It would have made his kids happy only for a day. He wanted more stories. So he stayed near the cave for more stories. The next day he heard another new story, more interesting than the first one. Like that he stayed near the cave for many more days, learning many new stories. He even lost count of how many new stories he had heard. Finally, he was happy and headed back to his home.

When he reached his home it was dark. His kids were almost ready to sleep. As soon as they saw their Appa, they started running towards him. They were so happy to see him back, after so many days. They weren't the same kids that he saw when he left the house, they looked bigger. Appa didn't even remember how many days he was away from the home. But they were all happy to see each other. Appa told them, 'come to bed quickly, I have so many new stories to tell you, but I will be telling only one new story a day, like I used to tell before'. But the kids told, 'Sorry Appa, we made you leave our home for stories. So we decided not to pester you any more for the stories. Instead we learned to tell our own stories. Every day before sleeping, one of us would tell one story each day for you so that you can come and join us. Now you don't have to tell us any more new story. But we will tell you one story each day'. Appa became very sad after realizing what he has done. He said 'I am very sorry boys, I will never do this again' and started listening to their stories....

I finished my story and asked Anirudh, as always, 'Did you like my story?'. He looked very sad and said 'No'. Then I asked Arjun 'Did you like my story'. He was very happy and said 'yes'. I asked further. 
'Why did you like the story, Arjun?'
'Because of the fox didn't eat Appa'
'Foxes don't eat people'
'What do they eat then'
'They eat rats, rabbits and chickens, if they can find'.
Before he could ask any more question, I asked Anirudh, 'Why didn't you like the story Anirudh'.
'I didn't like the story because the Appa left'
'But he left to get more stories'
'Still I didn't like him leaving'
'Ok, would you tell a story instead of asking Appa to tell story everyday'
'I will, I will', both shouted at the same time.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bed time stories

Dear Arjun and Anirudh,

My letters are taking really long to come by. I was thinking it is because I got busy with my office work. But deep down I know that is not the primary reason. Yes, I haven't done anything worthwhile other than slogging to get my project complete and doing routine household work in last one year. However if I really wanted, it wouldn't have been difficult for me to squeeze some time to get what I wanted to be done. It is all about priorities in your life. If you really value something, you will make time for that. If you want to give reasons for things you couldn't achieve, you will find thousands of them, without even having to think much.

From last couple of months, I wanted to tell you about something you were really enjoying. That is your bed time stories! Perhaps they get monotonous over the time and you might prefer the standard story book versions later. But for now you don't let me tell what I want to tell. You make me create stories that you want to hear. When Anirudh first asked me to tell 'Crocodile and the purse' story, I was like 'what'? How can there be a story related to crocodile and purse? I thought he asked it by mistake, so offered him 'Crocodile and the Monkey' story. But he wasn't that keen on that, so insisted on 'Crocodile and purse'. I didn't want to accept the defeat of not knowing a story, so I had to tell the 'Crocodile and the purse' story. 

Crocodile and the purse
Once upon a time there was a lady. One day she was going to market to buy some vegetables. On her way to market, a big truck passed by and threw some muddy water on her. So she had to go to a near by river to wash. She kept her green purse down and started washing. There was a big crocodile in that river. It saw the lady keeping her nice purse on the shore. It thought that purse might be very very yummy. So it came towards the shore to eat the purse. The lady saw the crocodile and ran away shouting loudly for help. Crocodile was very happy and ate the purse in one go. But it didn't realize that the purse was made up of plastic. Plastic is very very bad for stomach and doesn't get digested. The purse remained in its tummy and caused severe stomach pain. The crocodile couldn't eat anything. Two three days passed by, but the plastic remained in its stomach with non stop tummy pain. The crocodile couldn't eat anything else, so died in the river. There were few fishermen in that river trying to catch the fish. They thought they were catching a big shark fish, but ended up catching the dead crocodile. Then they opened crocodiles stomach and found a beautiful green bag. The lady found that bag and shouted 'that is my purse, that is my purse' and took away the purse happily. The poor crocodile gave up his life for nothing. 
The moral of the story is that you should never eat/bite plastic things!

I wasn't sure whether you will like my story. It is quite hard to create stories instantaneously. However you seemed to like the story. I kept on improving the story when the same title came again. However you were getting bored with the same story too quickly. So I started getting requests for stories of strange combinations, too often. It was even hard for me to remember my own stories, which is why I wanted to write this letter.

Crocodile and the alligator
Once upon a time there was a big river. In that river there was a crocodile and an alligator. Both were very dangerous. Since they were living close by, they often used to fight for the food. One day when they were searching for the food, they found a big dolphin coming towards them. The dolphin was playing happily leaping out of the water and hopping without knowing there were two dangerous animals waiting for it to come near by. When the dolphin came near, both alligator and the crocodile jumped out and grabbed the dolphin. Alligator grabbed his tail while crocodile grabbed his head. Soon both started fighting to eat the dolphin on their own. Seeing them fighting with each other, the intelligent dolphin made an idea. It said to them, 'crocodile, alligator, please don't fight. You both seem very hungry, so you need to eat me quickly. Since you don't want to share me, I will give you an idea. We will have a 100 meter race. Whoever comes first can eat me'. Both crocodile and alligator thought that is a very good idea, so they agreed to dolphin's plan. Dolphin whistled to start the race. Both alligator and crocodile ran fast to win the race. They were almost equal in the running race, however alligator was slightly faster. Within minutes they finished the race and came back to dolphin. However to their surprise there was no sign of dolphin there. It has escaped when they were racing. Both crocodile and alligator became very sad. They decided not to fight any more and to share their food.

Initially I thought telling my own stories is very easy. You never question like 'how will a dolphin talk when the crocodile has grabbed its head'. You just listen and accept everything without asking any logical questions, just like how I enjoy watching movies. However I start thinking after telling the story. Was it just entertaining to you for few minutes or whether it really had any effect on you. Perhaps the standard stories are well researched and more effective than my instant stories. I have no idea how you pursue a story. So sometimes I try to make my story as logical as possible and try to make it more educational. But often that ends up killing the flow of the story itself. So I had to find a fine balance between the flow and effectiveness of the story.

Milk drinking Cobra
Once upon a time there was a little boy in a village. He was very poor and used to live with his grandmother. Though he was very poor, he was very intelligent and curious about everything. He used to observe everything very closely and used to ask people tough questions. However everyone used to ignore him as he was just a small kid. It used to make him very sad, but he never stopped observing and questioning.
In his village there was a big banyan tree. Near its roots, there was a big anthill where a Cobra used to live. Everyone in that village used to worship that Cobra. They used to pour milk to anthill thinking Cobra will drink that and make them prosperous. The boy wasn't happy because nobody used to give him any milk. He started observing the Cobra more carefully after everyone left. The Cobra came out of the anthill. It looked distressed though there were traces of milk in its mouth. It looked very hungry and was looking for some food. He kept on following it and noticed Cobra eating a rat after some time. It looked very happy after eating the rat. He continued observing it for some more days and observed it only eating rats and not searching for milk. He thought Cobra doesn't like milk which is why it was distressed when people poured milk on it.
He told everyone that Cobra gets distressed with milk and it only likes rats. But everyone made fun of him. They were offering milk for years and Cobra God has made them prosperous. That year their crops were even better, so they decided to offer even more milk. When the day came to offer milk the boy started stopping them but they hit him and threw him out. Then they poured buckets of milk to the anthill and left happily. The boy waited for Cobra to come out distressed, but it didn't come out. Worried he went close and thought of helping the Cobra but it was dead by that time as it couldn't avoid drinking milk. He called everyone back and showed him what they have done. Every one became very sad for not listening to the boy. From that day they decided to listen to everyone and act wisely before acting.

It is hard to know whether you really understand the story and its morals. But I was convinced that you get most of what I tell. But I have no idea how effective they are going to be in shaping you. I don't really remember what kind of stories I used to listen when I was a kid. I can't think of anything that had a huge impact on me. So I think of not really bothering about the 'education' part of it as much as 'entertaining' part. But as always it is easy to think than to implement.