Experiential residential workshops opened an organic space for storytelling to emerge as a potent and powerful tool. Most significantly in the context of single ‘stories of separateness and division’ that have been told and retold to the people in the region, the young people during the workshops discovered that the stories they had heard about each other were ‘narrow, limiting and stereotypical’. The experience of discovering that people are more than one single story was quite profound which led to the idea of collecting and documenting stories of individuals and communities in the region so as to challenge the ‘single story’, that one had heard. This idea gave birth to the Storytelling Project.
Media and history sources overwhelmingly describe the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as a single zone of conflict– overshadowed by a single story of violence and division. It also projects the people of all the three regions as ‘bitter opponents who cannot reconcile or unify because of cultural differences, political positions and conflict’. The emphasis on disparities rather than on possibilities confines people into their comfort zones and thus arrest their worldview to only perceiving each other through a distorted and manipulative political lens. Standard stories obviously miss out on the diversity and complexity of human journey, every day lived in experiences, cultural complexities shared histories and goodness which abides beneath the outer shell of constructed identities that have been created over the years. Storytelling Project typically breaks these plaque walls to create a new space for understanding differences, building mutual respect and envisioning possibilities of creating a unifying perspective which tethers on the idea of inclusive diversity and human potential to transform relationships so as to form strong human connections.
It is an online platform for sharing transformative stories of individuals who have witnessed a discernable change within themselves. The stories as inspiration for other young people are aimed to draw upon the insights that an individual has gained and learnt creative ways to respond to external crisis or trigger, moved away from harmful expressions, started to reflect on personal thoughts and actions, started to drop preconceived notions about issues and people and most importantly felt that he/she is ready to take charge of one’s own life in terms of decision making, choices and responsibility. Personal stories that cut across all odds and do not fear to step out of the comfort zone to challenge the habitual self belong to this section.