Through the Lens of 18-55 mm: Power and Passion of Storytelling

Ananya’s Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust. 

I remember the storytelling classes of my school in my childhood days. It usually used to start after the lunch hours. Maybe when one of teachers was on leave for a day, or when it was raining and our sports activity got suspended. I have always been skeptical about being a storyteller, but I always loved listening to stories. It was a matter of huge excitement. We used to prepare and read stories for the whole week to see whose story can give us more goosebumps. These stories were different from our textbooks: they included fiction, non-fiction, narratives, journey and life of an eminent people and so on. I remember what used to give me more goosebumps were the way my friends or the teachers expressed themselves. The way the storyteller used to make their eyes round, how that affect moved along the whole class, how they used to move their hand, change positions, change the pitch of tone, rush or slow down words to vividly describe the situation of the story.

During the onset of my Fellowship with American India Foundation, placed with Quest Alliance, I revived my childhood experience. It was an opportunity for me to develop myself as a storyteller. What has compelled me to tell my story are those children who I meet everyday. Storytelling has connected me with them. From the initial days, I’ve been a deep believer in creating change through storytelling. Later with the progress of my journey, I can observe the changes happening around me.

Student: Didi, are you a Teacher?

Fellow: No, I am not teacher.

Host organization colleague: She is a writer. She visits schools, meets with you people and write the stories of what’s going on with you all in the school.

Student (with a basket of curiosity): Story writer! Do you write books? How to become a writer?

The last question brought unrest in by mind. Am I a storyteller? Am I a writer? How had I developed myself to be one? I put my thinking cap on to find my journey for becoming a storyteller. Going back to the situation, I suggested them to start writing anything they like, anything they want to express, and share with their friends, parents, teachers, etc. Then ask your peers to read and then ask them to give feedback.

The students were interested when listening to the process. They were more inquisitive about what studies they had to do to become a storyteller. They wanted to know how they can grow their confidence for public speaking and so on. Interestingly, I noticed that the girls were more keen. Thus, our discussion was followed by the storytelling of a different neighbouring school from their district. They were motivated to know more about the stories about how the students there are creating innovation in their school. It initiated their interest to rethink about the possibilities in their own school.

Now here my motive was to involve the students, faculties of the school and other government functionaries in the storytelling. The process was initiated with the students’ groups in the school. These are elected student groups who are called as Baal Sansad, the student parliament in the school. During the conversation with the students, there were also story sharing sessions. Explaining your journey in a story, how the changes have happened in the school.

This was the time when I broke the boundaries of my consciousness, to tell the story to the students. The story is nothing but a good practice happening in a neighboring school. Developing the students to design their innovation around the requirements and discontent in their school. Stories like opening closed door of the toilets, asking for separate toilet for girls, and water facilities in the toilets came up. Followed by organizing events, bringing back their friends to the school and setting up of library, stationery banks, children banks and so on are worth mentioning.

The process of storytelling seemed fascinating to the students, and it was same with the faculties. The students are the ambassadors of their own creation in their school; it gives them sense of ownership. They are the best amplifier of their work. It has been done through the process of storytelling. The students loved to share their stories of the journey in the different forum.

Conducting the storytelling session in Gopalpur Middle School Pusa, Samastipur, Bihar, India with the students of standard- VIII. Photo Courtesy: Nupur, Quest Alliance.

Using the lens of 18-55 mm was my one of ways of the capturing the stories. Thereby, utilizing it as a major component has helped me a lot in the storytelling process. The students are curious about what I click. It was a continuous struggle to create a friendly space so that they don’t become camera conscious. The students were interested about the process of capturing the stories, videography, where they could learn it, and what they have to study for that.

“Ma’am, how do you feel while taking photographs?” asked a girl of standard-VIII in Middle School Bedualiya in Samastipur, Bihar. These questions have touched my heart. I thought how these students know so much about my fondness of photography.

The students were very interested to know about the camera and photography. They were more attracted to handle the camera and to learn how to take photograph. Everyone wants to see how it looks like through the lens of 18-55 mm; is it something else?

“Didi, you join in the group picture, I will take the photograph”, offered one of the students. This provided them with an opportunity to see through the lens of camera, to hold the camera for the first time. The camera which may be not be a miracle, but it could be a magnificent exposure for them.

Capturing the emotions of the students while watching themselves on-screen, during the video screening in Middle School Desua, Ujiyarpur Samastipur, Bihar, India P.C.: Rajlaxmi, Quest Alliance.

After that, during my visits to schools, I started with an introduction to the camera and its usage. That made the students more friendly towards it. They became less bothered about the presence of the camera. They used to continue doing the things uninterruptedly. The purpose of my storytelling was successful through video screening. My happiest moment was to see the expression of the students when they were seeing themselves on the screen. The whole idea was to reach them with their stories. Sharing the videos in the different platforms connected the students and the teachers with these stories of the good practices. Now, they are driven towards the change and possibilities.

Ananya strongly believes in story-telling and capacity of an individual to share their own story to create change. Through her fellowship with Quest Alliance in Samastipur, Bihar she is trying to capture the stories of change and creating platform to share the same. William J. Clinton Fellowship has provided her an opportunity to explore her creative ideas and skills. She is proud to pursue her fellowship with Quest Alliance. She has completed her post-graduation in Masters of Social Work from Visva-Bharati, India. She flagged her professional career with Pratham, focusing on the education of children of Tea Tribes in North-eastern India. Moving towards central India she has worked in Ekjut with Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (formerly known as Primitive Tribal Groups) of Jharkhand state, for ensuring their nutrition and food security. She is a selected change maker of campaigning for Universalization of Maternity Entitlement for all women. She enjoys singing and music, especially playing guitar.

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