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Storytelling is an art propelled by the condition of life itself. From the wandering hermits of yore to the celebrity authors of present, storytelling techniques have gone through numerous changes but their charm remains the same. So, today we want to list out five of my favorite South-Asian storytellers. And before you think it has no relevance to your projects or work stop. If you understand the power of great communication, these storytelling techniques are like life skills. Here are 5 storytelling experts who inspire us and what you can learn from them!

5 Storytelling Experts Who Inspire Us And What You Can Learn From Them

1. Vishnu Sharma, Panchatantra Tales

Everybody knows Panchatantra tales. It is usually attributed to Vishnu Sharma as the key storyteller and sometimes debated nevertheless nobody can deny that these stories perfected the basics of storytelling techniques ages ago. They had simple but relatable characters, clear structure and they were able to drive home their point clearly and succinctly. In the same context can also mention global stories such as Aesop’s fables and Jatakas. I believe every culture has similar moralistic stories. While they are meant for children, if you look closer, you will see that their techniques are universally applicable.

image source: Wiki

5 Storytelling Experts Who Inspire Us

What You Can Learn

> Create a Story that has ups and downs, heroes and villains, some emotional stretch
> Keep the reader/ viewer at the edge
> Share the “learning” or the moral of the story, in the end
> Keep it engaging!

2. Jawaharlal Nehru

Yes, I understand that Nehru is an unusual choice for this list. But the first prime minister of India who was not only passionate about the politics of India but also about the history of the country as well. He wrapped us with his stories around the soft idea of the nation, an idea of India. His books explained secularism and the principles of democracy in eloquent language. He also ended up experimenting with formats as we wrote. That is why we have an entire book as a collection of letters he wrote to his daughter. 

What You Can Learn

> Focus on a backstory instead of being just about your plot
> Experiment with different storytelling techniques and formats
> Be personal and share personal experiences

3. Gulzar 

There are few screenwriters, poets as prolific as Gulzar. He is intensely evocative in his writing and has been writing for film, TV, and publishing books for kids, adults, and everyone who loves literature. Recently, Gulzar did a wonderful translation of another of India’s great poets, Rabindranath Tagore, using his children’s poetry. If you haven’t heard it, please take a Sunday off and thank us later :-).

What You Can Learn

> Keep the emotion at the center of your storytelling. Emotions make people react.
> Experiment with the narrative styles. Make the ordinary smells, sounds, feels come alive. Your story seeds are everywhere you look.
> Don’t be afraid to be unique. Mix languages, expressions, and tones like you do color to make a painting.

4. Lalla Ded

Kashmiri poet, ascetic, mystic, wonder woman. Call her what you may, she literally invented an entire culture and language. Lalla is felt in every Kashmiri song that begins with her verses. Or in sounds of grandmothers who may have left but continue to speak from creeks in the wall. It’s from the heart to an entire vale full of people.

What You Can Learn

> A complex concept works best when shared in regular language
> Construct your arguments carefully
> Stay passionate

5. William Dalrymple

One of the finest writers of the 21 century, Dalrymple’s roots can be traced back to Virginia Wolf. The very first book that I read from him was the book of Djinns and it was the most fascinating travelogue imbued with the different colors of Delhi. He started as a world traveler but gradually moved on to become a historian but the consistent element in his work is his ability to find most interesting stories in the most unexpected locations.

What You Can Learn

> Look for stories in unexpected quarters, including on your team desks and new employees!
> Think of relevant parallels. Sometimes sharing a parallel story or an example makes the understanding quick and easy!
> Keep up the pace. No one wants a yawning 4 hour long piece of non-emotional drama

Which storytellers have inspired you? Do share!

This post was originally drafted by Enakshi Sharma in July 2015 for Brandanew and was recreated by Peerbagh with editorial changes in 2023.