Sherline Pimenta – Kathanika
“That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.” Said Walt Disney. And my newest Boss Girl does just that. She instills hope by her lifestyle with conservation. She nurtures imagination through her work, which is something as simple and complex as storytelling. Read on to know more about this dynamic woman who is doing her very own bit to bring about a change in our future generations.
- Wow, you are a Doctorate from IIT and a Master Story Teller. Tell us more. What did you study in IIT? Does it form the basis of your passion as a storyteller?
I have been in love with stories from ever since I can recall. My first memory of childhood is that of my Grandfather telling me stories. As I grew up and learned to read, storybooks have been my constant companions. I studied for a Masters in Visual Communication at IITB and my first job post that was to illustrate a storybook comprising of tales about Sun Stories collected from around the wold. While working on the assignment I made a study of various drawing styles and realized that each one had a visual language in which to tell a story. The book I worked on sadly has not seen the light of day and was never published but it gave me something to think about. I returned to IITB to research the visual language and thus the Static Visual Narrative or SVN took shape. My thesis explores the Static Visual Narrative and unearths the components of visual grammar in visual stories.
- Tell us about ‘Kathanika’. The premise behind starting it, the hows, the whys and the wherefores 🙂
Kathanika was conceived in 2011, right after I completed my PhD. That I wanted to work with stories & design was something I was quite sure about, but in what form and how, was and is something that is in the process of evolving.
My journey to actually telling the story in public was something that happened by chance, I had researched so many stories in the 6 long years of my study that it was but natural that I began telling them as well. I used to tell a story at the beginning of my corporate talks or workshops as an ice breaker or as a way to put my audience at ease. They were well appreciated and many of those in the audience requested me to begin telling storytelling sessions. But telling stories to adults is very different from telling stories to children. Adults are forgiving but kids are not.
Reading Owls Creativity Klub aka ROCK is a wing of Kathanika that works towards taking stories to children. I began telling stories to little kids in 2016 at the pre-school my children attended. Actually I was requested to share and engage in an activity with my kids at the school. The management then invited me to come once every week for a half an hour of storytelling. I’ve been doing that ever since. Some parents also requested me to have storytelling sessions weekly, outside of school hours and thus the ROCK took shape. I like it if the kids learn something along with being entertained as well, so I see ROCK as a complementary education initiative. At ROCK we learn by mean of a story, that is to say the story becomes the excuse to discuss an issue or a concept. Kids are then encouraged to explore the concept, discuss or dwell on the topic through planned activities.
- Isn’t it really daring to actually pick up something as simple as storytelling (which in our country at least, was always the domain of grandparents) and turn it over as a career?
Well I really didn’t think of it that way. I would say storytelling has picked me and not the other way around. I did try to get work in other areas of design but they somehow didn’t work out and I found myself coming back to stories. While telling stories and working with stories I feel I am in my element.
- What made you pursue a career as a Storyteller? Tell me about the journey too. You make it look all easy and breezy but I am sure there is a lot of homework to do.
As stated earlier, it’s storytelling that picked me. I never thought I would pick it up as a career. It’s very hard to describe, I don’t get scared or nervous to tell a story, I am extremely comfortable and it just comes very easily to me.
Yes there is a bit of work involved, you need to research the topic, find stories, scan through various versions, pick one and convert it into an oral narrative format, you need to check for age appropriateness, vocabulary, profanity, violence etc. You need to crosscheck the facts stated in the story. Above all you need to practise and perfect it. But I enjoy every part of that behind the scene journey too!
- Why do you think story telling is so important. What is the takeaway for kids?
Storytelling in my opinion is very important, we do not give it as much weightage but believe me kids need to be told stories, all types of stories, over and over again. Stories prepare you to face the world. Stories are like case studies, you need to know what happens if you are faced with a certain scenario, you need to know what is the right way to handle a situation, who helps you do that?…stories of course. That is the reason great philosophers like Buddha and Jesus used stories, they did not tell stories to entertain, but to inform and educate.
Let me ask you this. What happens when you do not hear a story about a situation…you are lost, you get into depression because you think you are the only one faced with something strange. For example, how do you come to terms with a situation when you are faced with where you have lost something you wanted desperately? If you have heard the story of the fox and the grapes story, you will apply the sour grapes theory and come to terms with the circumstances but say if you have never heard the story…what then? You would probably struggle to make your peace with the situation. Therefore it is very important that people listen to stories, different types of stories.
- Describe a typical work week for you.
My work week is a juggling act between caring for my 3 kids, I look at Kathanika as my 3rd child. Some of my work is planned such as the meals menu, kid’s routine, my regular ROCK sessions; and others spontaneous. I don’t know when a story or a poem would come to me so I have to be prepared to receive it. In between I try and make time for my kitchen garden, exercise, watercolour, sketching, reading and other interests.
- Tell me, was it easy to just get up one day and say “I am going to be a story teller?” And everyone was cheery and happy about it? How did you convince your family that you were going to do this as a serious profession?
I am happy to say that ours is a family that loves stories, my parents are supportive of what I do as is my mother-in-law; she is a great storyteller as well, though she does not tell stories in public. My husband is working on his PhD currently in the area of Interactive Storytelling. My kids although they are small are super proud of their “Storyteller Mumma” and the younger one has already decided she wants to do just that when she grows up J I receive encouragement from them all.
- I have noticed you take a keen interest in conservation and going back to our roots … be it nature, be it sustainable living… tell us more? How do you think we all can do more of it and teach our kids.
Ours is a family that has a simple living style, we are very aware of the limited resources our planet has and we are making a small effort towards keeping it green. When it comes to teaching kids, the most effective method is practise what you would like your kids to do. Both me and my husband like to live a life as close to nature as possible and we try to do that. We research the old traditional ways of living, and apply what is applicable and adaptable. Our kids I am sure are looking and learning, I also make it a point to share our little attempts on social media so as to encourage people. Sometimes people just need that little nudge 🙂
9. So, what all do you do that you think can be easily adopted by all of us to make that change in our lifestyle to help the environment and our health?
We have been trying to lead an eco-friendly, (as much as possible) self-sustainable life in our little apartment.
Steps taken to do that….
a) Minimising use of Electricity: We use lights & fans only after dark. During the day we only use the Mixi & Washing machine (only once a day). Thankfully in Pune the climate is pretty cool & we have a well ventilated home. We don’t have an AC or a TV. We don’t take daily newspapers. We check news on our “smart phones” & watch movies on our laptops.
b) Composting : All kitchen waste & leftovers goes into the composter. Dry waste goes to recycling bins & medical waste such as expired medicine we give to the pharmacy to be disposed off safely.
c) Minimizing on getting stuff that is not compostable: We make our powdered spices, jams, pickle, ketchup at home, thus saving on bringing packages inside our home. Grains are bought at the local wholesale (kirana) store & ground at the local chakki. Thus we get less chemicals into our system too!!!
d) Growing plants & herbs in our balcony garden: While we cannot grow everything, we try as much as we can. We have Curry leaves plant on our balcony in addition to a few others.
e) Minimal use of Cosmetics: I don’t use much make-up, no foundation, no talcum powders & no sunscreen, no creams, no moisturizer etc. That does not mean I don’t care for my skin or appearance. Face packs & hair packs I make at home with natural ingredients. Our only indulgence so far has been shampoo. Our soap is home made. From scratches to dry skin we use coconut oil.
f) Home cleaners: We make our own “Collin” with vinegar & lemon peels. I’m working on experimenting with dish cleaners, laundry soap & washroom cleaners. I’ll share as soon as I hit an effective “for-mu-laa”. If you have one please share.
g) Snacks: Wafers, Chips is either made at home or we purchase from the Hot Chips store. No packaged snacks/ juices / sodas for us.
h ) “Carry-out utensil kit” – we carry our own kits of steel glass, spoons, steel tiffin so we don’t use disposable ones. The tiffin works to bring back leftovers that the kids are unable to finish at restaurants. We each have our own steel water bottles too!
i) We ensure we cook or purchase food only as much as we can consume & ensure we have minimal wastage. Kids are encouraged to either opt for less, finish what’s on the plate or set aside for later consumption. Fruits are kept handy just in case “we are not full”.
Cooking in cookers, saves time, energy & stress 😀
j) Water is used mindfully: Leaky faucets are fixed asap. No running water during brushing. Bucket baths. Water used to wash veggies / grains is stored & used to water our plants.
k) Walking wherever & whenever possible: We walk short distances for errands. I accompany Kahān on his walk to school that is a short distance away. This time is utilized to talk, plan, observe & discuss.
l) Planning and clubbing motorized outtings: All our errands are planned such that we complete as much as possible in minimal trips.
m) We don’t follow fashion trends, our clothes are practical & simple. They are used until they are presentable, then converted into dusters, bags or if in good condition, donated. We prefer natural, comfortable fabrics such as cotton.
n) Paper printed / used on one side is passed on to the kids for their drawing. Yes they protest about wanting a “new empty paper” but we either distract them or if we have the patience remind them that a tree was cut to give us that little piece of paper.
A laminated empty A3 size sheet serves as a good reusable drawing board.
o) We have actively reduced consumption of Meat, Fish, Poultry & Dairy products but make sure we get out supplements from other vegetarian sources.
p) We keep cloth bags in our car handy to house impulsive purchases. We also keep a bag to store our dry waste while traveling. Wet waste is discarded along the road at a suitable location.
Most importantly every thing got inside our door is scrutinized for
1) Do we really need it
2) Is it reusable
3) Is it eco friendly.
4) Can we make do with something we already have.
5) Can we delay the purchase.
But we do have our impulsive buying once in a while 🙂
10. You also are always wearing a Saree in your sessions and in the most unique way. Tell us more about the idea behind the Saree drape and why a Saree?
I love the feel of natural fabrics, I like cotton and linen, they are comfortable and apt for our climate. I believe in wearing practical clothes suited to the job undertaken. Our Indian costume was so well designed, they are largely the unstitched fabric, draped in many ways suited to the task the wearer has to perform. For example the dhoti or mundu for men and saree for women. Since it is an unstitched cloth it is suitable to all body types and can be adjusted to suite the need of the wearer. In fact the mundu in Kerala is worn by both men and women so it can be used interchangeably.
I love the saree, the yards and yards of fabric embrace me and keep me warm. I began draping my saree in a way that helped me do my job. As a storyteller I need my hands to gesture and I found the pallu coming in my way restricting my hand movements, so I improvised on that and devised a simple and effective way of draping the saree that keeps my hands free. I plan to take our stories overseas and what better way than taking them wrapped in a saree 🙂
11. So, Master Storyteller, What is your favourite Story to read and share?
That’s such a difficult question. I like folklore, they tell you a lot about the region, beliefs and the people they come from. My current favourite is a story about Kalia Dhano, the demon who sits atop the Red Silkcotton Tree. What…you haven’t heard of it? Then it’s time you come to one of my sessions and I’ll tell you all about him 🙂