The Power Of A Story

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Swades, a Bollywood movie featuring the popular actor Shah Rukh Khan hit the screens in the year 2004. In the movie Shah Rukh Khan plays the character of Mohan Bhargava a bright young scientist at NASA who returns to India to take his childhood nanny Kaveriamma back with him to the USA. The film paints a vivid picture of the contrast between the highly developed world of NASA which is at the forefront of advances in space research, and his world back home in India, which is at the crossroads of development.

Stories work as metaphors, so, in Mohan’s simple trip back home a lot of Indians could see themselves and their own yearly sojourns to India. The movie’s resolution — that India needs its talent, struck a chord with many Indians.

Now, at one level, what is a movie really but an escape from reality? Are they not a brief window of respite from our daily grind, an outing with friends or family where we can bond over songs, popcorn and cola? But a good story is much more than that. A story can leave a mark, a story can make you laugh and cry and a story can also influence your decisions in ways that you could never imagine. A story can also change a life.

And that is what Swades did to one of my closest friends. A very bright engineer, he had left India for the U.S. immediately after his graduation and had stayed on there. Of course he kept coming back every year for the holidays. He came back to get married to his college sweetheart and took his wife back to the U.S. His children, born in the USA were U.S. citizens and studied in the best of the American schools. And then one day he and his wife saw Swades.

So deeply and powerfully were they impacted by the story that he gave up his job in the U.S. and moved back to India to start a new life all over again. To live in India, work in India and help in whatever small way he could, to modernize India and play his part in the transformation of India.

Who would have thought that a regular weekend visit to the movie hall could have resulted in such a dramatic change in one’s life? That is the power of a story. We have been grossly under-estimating the power of a story for ages but today, in fields as diverse as education, entertainment and business Stories are influencing us and shaping us in ways we are only beginning to understand better now. So, choose carefully the stories you tell your children: you never know how deep they cut.

Author — Ameen Haque

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