#3: Thatha's Tidbits
This week I thought I’d switch things up. I was thinking of how much I loved listening to my Thatha’s stories which are packed with all the theatrics with him acting out different voices, pausing for just enough time to build suspense and describing the scene ever so vividly. To mimic horses galloping he used to tap his fingers one by one on wood and I felt like I was in the story with them. Thatha is revered for his stories and jokes in my family with all the cousins listening intently filled with awe.
So, I decided to do a mini informal interview with him regarding his art of storytelling. I felt like a journalist, with my phone in hand, recording the whole thing! Well, here it is!
What inspired you to start narrating stories?
My grandfather instilled in me the habit of reading classical English and French stories. Being a polygot himself, he was well versed in French, English, Bengali and Hindi besides Tamil and Sanskrit. The storytelling ability in me comes from him. He used to tell many stories when I was young. Storytime starts around after dinner at 8, and goes up to 9,9:30. He used to pick up stories from English literature - works of Shakespeare and even from French stories, the story of Jean Valjean from Les Misérables, Alexander Dumas and stories from North India.
Hearing a story is totally different from visually absorbing it as we are now seeing on television because there isn’t any room left for one’s imagination. When a story is told, one might think the forest to be on the right to the hill and the other might think it to be on the left. This sort of thinking kindles your imagination. One cannot become a storyteller if he paints the same visual, there must be a lot of room for imagination. This ability in me later on developed especially after reading hunting books by Kenneth Anderson and Jim Corbett and I used to narrate a lot of stories with a bit of a touch here and there which makes it more interesting and thrilling.
Tell us the story that you love chronicling.
The most interesting Kenneth Anderson story is The Spotted Devil of Gummalapur. Gummalapur is a small village bordering Karnataka but is actually in Tamilnadu. This story has become extremely famous with our family members. Everytime I start narrating something else, they want this story all over again! A man eating leopard started picking up humans in the village one by one. It’s a small hamlet with thatched roofs. So many deaths occurred so the Collector requested Kenneth Anderson to come and do something about this problem.
Kenneth Anderson, when he came, the whole village was shivering with fear. The leopard waits at the edge of a gate, when someone goes there to answer nature’s call, that’s when the leopard grabs the villager in a jiffy. The leopard treads in extreme silence and hides without anyone’s knowledge and watches stealthily. So, Kenneth Anderson was wondering how he should tackle the leopard. There was a small street, the whole village had one street with huts on both sides. He chose a brick hut and put a lot of thorns on the top of the roof so that he can lean against the brick wall and wait for the leopard. Kenneth was sitting on a stool with his gun fully loaded and a flask of tea along with a few biscuits. The village dog or cur passed that way and stopped and looked at Kenneth, with his hat and other things. That dog was shaken, thinking what sort of animal that was, sitting on a stool with smoke coming out from his cigar. Then, the dog thought that he was friendly and started wagging its tail and Kenneth beckoned it and it went and sat next to him. Kenneth stroked its head and it started sleeping. With a startle, the dog got up and seemed highly disturbed. At the end of the street, there seemed to be a small shadow moving, which soon vanished. The dog rushed to the middle of the street, started barking and glancing towards the roof. Then Kenneth realized that there was something wrong. As he turned, he saw a black thing looking at him from atop. He didn’t hesitate even for a moment, steadied the gun and with one shot and hit the leopard which somersaulted onto the street. He really was grateful to the dog for having saved his life.
Listening to this gave me chills! Thatha has a scar on his neck and he used to jokingly tell us kids that it came about because a tiger mauled him and we used to look at it in astonishment! My favourite story of my Thatha’s is when he encountered a tiger in Kodaikanal when he was a small boy, but that’s a tale for another day! If any of you want an audio of the above narration, message me :)
Links you’ll love
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Do check up on those close to you, and I hope you enjoy your week ahead!
How awesomely written... too well penned down.. your Thatha must be so happy that he has left such a beautiful legend!! Waiting for more such stories dear!!
We all need Thatha's podcast.