The story is about us

Nina Sabnani

home Stories mesmerize, invoke curiosity, enhance memory and listening skills, reflect culture and teach lessons for life. In all ages and all places stories have been exchanged between people as they express the deepest desires and anxieties of a society, directly or through subversive means. Whatever be the reasons for storytelling, the narration of a story brings people together, be it situated in a street corner, a cave, or a dark cinema hall.

Commenting on the ubiquitous nature of narrative, Roland Barthes states:
“Narrative is present in myth, legend, fable, tale, novella, epic, history, tragedy, drama, comedy, mime, painting…, stained glass windows, cinema, comics, news item, conversation. Moreover, under this almost infinite diversity of forms, narrative is present in every age, in every place, in every society; it begins with the very history of mankind and there nowhere is nor has been a people without narrative… it is simply there, like life itself.”

The ubiquity of narrative or story can be explained by the various functions that the story fulfills for human beings. Stories have been used to: ‘remember, argue, justify, persuade, engage, entertain, and even mislead audiences’.

Some stories are so old that they have acquired a life of their own. Consider the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, and it is almost impossible to label them as stories. For the believer, the sacred story or myth is an entry into sacred time, where in the act of listening she/he forgets her/his own current situation and ascends into an otherwise inaccessible place, which is on a ‘superhuman or suprahistorical plane’.

A story is a journey, a quest and an adventure in which a protagonist sets out into the unknown to discover their own abilities, fears, foes, and friends. It is about dealing with conflicts, finding the magical instruments and accomplices who help the protagonist and the reader by proxy, to return home to peace and contenetment.

The author is a Professor at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay. She is an artist and storyteller who uses film, illustration and writing to tell her stories. She can be reached at

This is an article for subscribers only. You may request the complete article by writing to us at