Many stories are forgotten and many sources of heritage are slipping away. However, I found that it is possible to piece the story of a forgotten past together through storytelling. Storytelling, is an interpretation of a few facts. It pieces together little snippets of material to make a beautiful whole, like a quilt. A good story is an authentic story, not necessarily a factual story. In my writing I fill in the holes where facts were not found, based on my interpretation of the facts that were found. I not only understand, but hope that as more information is unearthed, as more stories about the same facts are told, my story will change.
I was not a writer, through this process I have become one. I was never good with grammar and language, though I loved to read. Through writing I have come to understand language better, and have improved my writing style. I wish to encourage people to write and write often to grow their skill.
However, I also recognize that writing is not the only way to tell stories. There are those who like to tell stories, but hate writing. There are many who tell stories through poetry, song, dance, art and even food and dress. The Gonds have been telling their tribal stories through folk art; the Siddis tell their story through quilting. The Adivasi of Chota Nagpur (eastern India) tell stories through dance and song. Mahasweta Devi told the story of a people through the bow and arrow in her work ‘Choti Munda’s Arrow.” All these elements of culture can be incorporated into storytelling. Many of us have learned stories of our family in the kitchen, watching our grandmother cook, or working along side our fathers, or playing games with other children, or finding an old tree. Everywhere there are stories.
Who is the story teller in your family/village/clan/neighborhood? In my family it was my dad who was the storyteller. He tells over and over again stories from his life, as well as folk tales. When my mother was alive they use to argue about the details of the life stories. Through their different perspectives of the same story we children gained a bigger picture of what happened, about who our parents were and what mattered to them. And I am sure we still came up with different interpretations of the same story. As I was writing the biography, my father has been my primary editor. If the story resonated with him as authentic I felt that I was on the right track. I am now in search of other readers with different perspectives to find out how the story resonates with them. This is the true measure of the authenticity of a story.
Writing is a journey. The writer asks a lot of questions and searches for answers. I had to figure out where to search, and sometimes I would find answers in the least likely place. It is like walking through the jungle, you never know what is ahead. The one thing I do not like about writing is that it can be isolating and lonely. Those people's who live in jungles therefore rely on community. This is why I also want to encourage people to create writing communities.
I have found academic writing helpful to storytelling. The last writers workshop I attended was a group of Anthropologists who began to write novels based on their anthropological studies. They collect people’s stories and what they write, help all of us learn more about culture and humanity. I also appreciate Psychology and the various studies of Identity, emotions, and behavior. During my research, I relied on this body of work to enhance my story telling.
In my journy, I utilized my local university that provided several writing workshops. Here I learned from others how to write. I was able to have others critique my work and learned how to appreciate finding out that something that sounded very good to me, did not communicate what I hoped. Writing is finding your own voice and learning how to effectively communicate. So this is why we I gathered other's interested in preserving their heritage when I arrived in Ranchi this last time, to create a writing community that would together explore finding, telling and preserving the stories of our heritage.