In just one hour, Geeta Ramanujam leads the audience through the journey of her life in stories. From her childhood in Mumbai to her successful career as an internationally renowned storyteller, she envelopes the audience in colourful imagery and vivid characters from the moment we walk through the door.
Through her stories, Ramanujam describes both the good and the bad in her life. She tells us of her conflicted identity, catalysed by growing up speaking one language at school and another at home. She describes the arranged marriage that interrupted her studies and the struggle of adjusting to a new, foreign life in Canada with a husband she had met merely weeks before. Yet throughout the performance, not a tone of bitterness or unhappiness can be detected in her words. Never does she dwell on the freedom that she was denied or complain of the difficulties she faced, but rather describes every part of her life as an adventure, each experience opening a new door to the next part of her life. Throughout her talk, Ramanujam exudes an indisputable sense of positivity and optimism that fills the room from door to door.
Everything she describes seems alien to a western audience, yet one cannot help but feel close to her story, relating their own experiences to it as she speaks. Ramanujam’s power as a storyteller is mesmerising and her ability to enthral a room of people with stories of her rich, colourful culture is unique and inspiring. The stage is bare but Ramanujam’s presence is so captivating that she needs nothing but her voice to fill the room.
At moments, however, Ramanujam loses the audience. In particular, her tale of the mountain and the bird becomes extensively abstract and the meaning behind the story is not as easily extracted. However, this blip is only momentary and the audience is quickly fascinated once again as she instills messages upon us, taught to her by her parents as a child. Speaking quietly, she says, “in any situation, don’t react and don’t run away, always stay and respond.” Through this message, Ramanujam echoes the true essence of storytelling – passing knowledge and wisdom down to generations beyond her own.
What makes this performance so poignant is the way in which Ramanujam interacts with the audience. She speaks comfortably, breaking down the walls that would usually divide an audience and a performer in such a setting. She guides us to finish her sentences and build upon the stories as she tells them. Such charisma meets an unexpected enthusiasm from the audience. It takes a unique and remarkable talent to bring together a room of strangers – a talent which Geeta Ramanujam undoubtedly possesses.
Geeta Ramanujam performed as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival. For more information, visit: https://www.sisf.org.uk/events/