When I was young, not a single day passed without my Nani or Dadi narrating a story for me, before I went into my slumber. Curled up in bed, waiting for her to finish her work, I used to eagerly wait for that time of the day. They were mostly folk tales or stories from Mahabharat or Ramayana. With my head resting in her lap, listening ardently to the tales of brave kings, magical land of djinns and clever animals, the little kid in me travelled to far away lands before finally dozing off to sleep.
Those were simpler days. With technological advances, laptop and mobile phones became our lifelines, and the tradition of storytelling seemed to die a slow death.
However, a retired teacher from Bangalore is bringing back that magic of Dadi-Nani ki kahaniyan by telling bedtime stories through WhatsApp, and more than 6,000 kids all across the world are loving her for this.
Sarla Mini, a retired teacher who holds a bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy and Psychology, used to record the stories and send it to her grandson, grand-nephews and nieces. As she began getting appreciation, her niece Parul Rampurya suggested that she make it a regular thing by recording a story on a weekly basis.
Encouraged by the positive response, Sarla Mini began sending audio recordings of stories to her subscribers on WhatsApp and this is how Kahaniwali Naani was born.
Kahaniwaali Naani is 4 months old and with just word-of-mouth publicity, has 6,000 subscribers spread across countries such as UK, US, Dubai, Nigeria, Switzerland and Australia. She records stories in both Hindi and English, with each story being around 8-minute long. But she does a lot of research on a story before finally recording it.
She told The Hindu:
I research folktales from all over the world, read different versions of each story. Then I work on a script, record it and send it to my niece and daughter who give me feedback. I try to improvise the stories I read so that they can be understood by even toddlers, but I try to make them interesting to pre-teens as well.
With families becoming increasingly nuclear, there isn't much scope of bonding between kids and grandparents. And Sarla Mini aims to fill this gap with her stories.
Recalling a phone call she received from a woman in Kashmir, she told The Hindu that the woman's family lived in a small town, around 30 km away from the border. The family didn't have access to proper schooling and the internet connectivity was poor too. But whenever they got an internet connection, her children eagerly waited for Kahaniwali Nani's stories.
She told The Hindu:
I hope that I reach as many children as I can. I believe that stories are a child’s birthright. Of course, I hope to make my stories more interesting and perhaps, have different stories for different age-groups. But I would never charge for them.
Such a wonderful initiative!