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Our stories evolve with our identities

Updated: Apr 5, 2021

Author: Shaista Naaz

Maya Angelou says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. The stories which were never told, either crushed before germinating or weren’t fed enough for them to rise, took birth yesterday in a safe small circle of 12 LBF fellows which according to Ruha Shadab, CEO of Led By foundation, are a group of ambitious, sassy, and professional young women. Yesterday my story was plain, vague, and insignificant; today it's powerful, empowering, and vivid. What changed between yesterday and today was nothing yet everything.

With two weeks left before we graduate from LedBy, the fellows dived into a HubDot storytelling workshop. A pre-task to narrate our stories was sent to us. I had a long time thinking and reflecting upon my story and the failure of not coming up with a truly inspirational one made me furious at once followed by undermining my journey. Nevertheless, with no clear idea and a badly shaped story, I entered the zoom meeting and saw some new faces with something to tell waiting for us to settle down.

Joined by Asma Khan, a British restaurateur staffed with women mostly in their 50’s, with no professional culinary background spoke on how precious experiences are because they define us. She also added that it is significant to embrace one’s defeats and build an empire over all these bruises. She further narrated a story on a small café which proved to be a safe haven for a few young girls who were victims of slavery and human trafficking.

Further, the Hubdot storytelling workshop was facilitated by Simona Barbieri and Jumana Sodawala, who tried to push across a point that women are super connectors and have incredible stories in the form of little dots and Hubdot tries to join these dots. It believes that the world is connected soulfully through stories. We were told to create and narrate our story as that’s the essence of Hubdot, “Stories”. This workshop didn’t demand us to pen down our extraordinary achievements but rather sparked a sense of realization that we are enough. Our story is enough and it doesn’t really matter whether society validates it or not. In the process of building, sharing, and narrating our stories, connections were made. Connections where one could find a part of oneself in every story. We don’t fit in one box and no matter how hard the society tries to mold; we find our way out of these boxes like wild and untamed branches.

The workshop began by setting out norms to follow while writing our stories. The first step of storytelling was to make the audience curious to know more about you and your stories. What was given much of our attention was to the fact that it is essential to show our vulnerabilities as these vulnerabilities are the universal truths. The narrative style should follow a Pause-start-pause pattern. Pause to invite the audience to listen to your story, start when there are enough room and space for your story to unfold, and pause again as it helps people to step into the moment and gauge different layers of your story you are introducing them with.

Furthermore, we stepped into a music segment as “Music is where the magic happens” and was joined by Kashish Shamsi. What made this segment more special was our discourse on how multiple identities play their part in our stories. What stood out to me the most was how intricately society decides the degree of our identities. In Kashish’s world “You aren’t Indian enough when you are in India, not American enough in America, not Muslim enough in Mosque and not woman enough if you do not follow the norms”. But as someone said, our stories evolve with our identities. The stories of my co-fellows embracing the identities they hold close to their heart were the highlight of this session. These stories were vibrant as they rose from valleys and walled cities, it took me places I have never been to and moments I have never lived and in between this process, we got connected, soulfully, with our small dots.

As we reached the penultimate session of LBF, a co-fellow aptly named this session to be “Kancerlove” a colloquial word for an unrequited love used in Kashmir, because every next session is more enriching, insightful, and escalates you to an arena of exposure.

Shaista Naaz is a graduate from Jawaharlal Nehru University and a 2020 LedBy Her Fellow

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