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Why I Tell the Stories I Tell: I Prefer Adventures of the Pandavas and Pranks of Krishna to Cinderella and Snow White

Why I Tell the Stories I Tell: I Prefer Adventures of the Pandavas and Pranks of Krishna to Cinderella and Snow White

  • In my podcast “Ganesha’s Tusk” I tell stories from Hindu epics and mythology and discuss them from today’s perspective.

About a year ago, I started a podcast called Ganesha’s Tusk, which is hosted by the organization, Hindus for Human Rights. The series is about Hindu stories and what morals we can take away from them. In each episode, I tell a different story from Hindu epics and discuss what I think it means. 

I always loved it when my grandparents told me stories about Hindu Gods and Goddesses. As I got older, I started to think more and more about what they represented. Eventually, I started doing my own research into these stories and my parents suggested that I should put what I find out into a podcast. It was COVID times, after all, and I was looking for things to do. But I thought that just telling the stories would not be enough. So, I came up with the idea to talk about my own opinions on what the stories meant. As a young girl, I have a very different opinion about these stories and what they say about our society now, and society back then.  

The most interesting example of this (to me) is when Draupadi gets disrobed in front of hundreds of people in the Mahabharata. You can listen to it here. In the most popular version of the story, Draupadi prays to Lord Krishna, and he saves her. But, in another version, she actually saves herself, and does not ask anyone else to help. In a newer interpretation, other women in the palace help her when she is being attacked. I thought that the different versions of Draupadi’s story show us how women can fight for their own dignity. As for me, I was really angry for Draupadi and what she had to endure. In other episodes, I talk about lighter subjects, like what we can learn from Lord Ganesha’s favorite foods

When I started the podcast, I thought I would just learn about the stories and share them. But it has turned into so much more than that for me. I have been able to find my voice and speak about my opinions. Even though these stories were written thousands of years ago, they are still able to empower us. I used to be afraid to say what I believed in. Now, I feel more comfortable doing that because I have practiced how to talk about my thoughts in each of these stories. This has helped me form my own opinions and to question what others tell me. Working on the podcast has made me more confident.  

I think it is also important to be able to question these stories. They were, after all, written thousands of years ago. It is amazing that a lot of the stories are relevant to modern lives. 

Another reason the podcast is important to me is that I get to hear about Indians. I hear so much about Western stories, different European cultures, and fairy tales, that I sometimes forget that Hindu stories — and other stories from Indian mythology and history — are just as important and interesting. It makes you feel so much better when you know that you are not alone in your culture. Stories always have a way to take you to another world. For me, the podcast can take me to a world where I am surrounded by people that have a similar culture to me. Rather than only hearing about characters like Cinderella and Snow White, I can hear about the adventures with the Pandava brothers, or the pranks Krishna plays, and that feels so much more like me.  

I think it is also important to be able to question these stories. They were, after all, written thousands of years ago. It is amazing that a lot of the stories are relevant to modern lives. They speak to the problems that people face every day. But there are also some problematic things in these stories. For example, in Eklavya’s thumb, I talk about caste oppression. And in the story of Kannagi, I talk about how women’s voices are silenced. These things are reflective of how people viewed certain things back then, but they do not line up with what people believe now. It is important to think about what is not okay in these stories and to talk about them from the point of view of human rights — and the importance of speaking up against injustice. 

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An episode that I am very excited about is one where I have a guest and we have a conversation. In the future, I hope to have other people come onto Ganesha’s Tusk. It is so much fun hearing other people’s opinions, and seeing how we can hear the same story but have completely different things to take away from it. It is especially important to get kids to think about, and talk about, their opinions. My favorite thing about the podcast is that it got me to engage with, and learn about, my culture – and I hope that others will, too. 

It has been a great opportunity to do this podcast and I look forward to learning more. If you would like to check it out, you can find me at Ganesha’s Tusk

Samara Desai is a seventh grader from Seattle, Washington. She likes to play basketball, chess, tennis, and predicting the ending of movies.

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  • Samara, best wishes for the larger success of your podcasts and other ventures. You are addressing one of the difficulties many parents and grandparents often face in telling Hindu stories to the young — looking for stories with less violence. Perhaps, a longer term project for you could be a compilation of non-violent Hindu tales for grandpas and grandkids.?

  • Thank you Samara for this wonderfully thoughtful piece. So important to diversify the stories we hear and share, beyond Snow White etc. at the same time we must also learn to think about these stories in new ways in line with the progress we are making as a society so that they can continue to empower. So well articulated! Look forward to listening to your podcast!

  • Samara your talent of story telling is greatly appreciated.
    World did not change that fast in last 20,000 years and so, all the stories in Hitopadesh, and Puranas are very relevant to today and will be for eve. The time changes , but Human nature is not changing.

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