Of Stories And Storytellers


I scan the tinted windows of the Amtrak train which a new friend boarded to get home. I hope to wave one final bye before I walk back to my car but can’t see her. I drive home on auto-pilot.

The weekend has been interesting. It has been intense.

Over two months ago, when The Huffington Post piece went viral, there was a flurry of interest. Many people contacted me. One among them was an award winning documentary filmmaker Chithra who works under the Real Talkies banner. We exchanged emails, phone calls and set a date to meet this weekend. I invited her home.

She expressed interest in making a film about our life. I was flattered, intrigued and definitely interested. She called herself a teller of stories. She spoke of themes, of how filmmaking is subjective. I listened in awe. All through Saturday, she engaged with my children. They played with her equipment, starred in warm up videos, goofed away only as children can. I watched from behind the scenes as she led with simple questions, delving deeper, teasing out emotions and narrowing in on a single thread out of many.

Late at night, we ambled along my neighborhood sharing stories, dissecting and talking about seminal events that changed the course of our lives. It was midnight before we retired. This morning she was ready, her camera in hand as she had the children share a photo book from their first year with us. Ammu drew as she spoke seemingly unaware of the camera that was rolling. The moments were heartwarming. Some questions brought out prompt answers. Others had her lost in thought, rambling until she hit a nerve and causing those watching to tear up. I watched my children tell their story in their words.

In the many years since I became a mother, I have told this story, my story many times over. Today I got to see their story. Perhaps someday, Laddu will share her story featuring the same set of people that will look and feel so different from all our stories.

I sat on the stoop of my home, leaning against the door as Chithra zoomed into my face, capturing worry lines, laugh lines and the glinting grays in my hair. She started with deceptively simple questions. By the time we were done, I was spent, exhausted from the effort of reliving, framing my thoughts and trying to traverse our life backward and forward.

As we walked inside the home, she reminded me that this was just the warm-up. Four to five hours of footage from which a thirty-second teaser will be cobbled. The end product, a 5-8 minute video, will capture a day in our lives.

As I drove home, one of the last questions she posed echoed in my mind.

“Why do you want to do this?”

Why indeed?

“Because I believe stories are powerful. Stories change lives. Stories touch people.”

Stories also leave the teller drained. Wrung out. Exhausted from laying bare lives, feelings, and thoughts.

10 thoughts on “Of Stories And Storytellers

  1. Wow, Lakshmi. This is fantastic. You’re yourself a wonderful storyteller and I can only imagine how much more impactful the collaboration would be on a (more?) powerful medium.
    Wish you good luck.

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