The Story Teller and Other Pieces -Interview with Writer Pramod Kumar

The Story Teller by Pramod Kumar

Some untold stories

To die is one thing, to fall in love is another…

To live is one thing, to be alive is another…

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The café was full as usual. Though located in downtown, it was particularly mannered compared to its other counterparts.

It was not the aroma of the freshly baked coffee beans that pulled women to this part of the town, but the young lad who used to tell stories- stories with strange endings, which sometimes would leave the audience spellbound, sometimes in rage of anger, sometimes in tears. They would promise themselves not to come to him again, not to listen to his stories again. But the promise was too hard to keep for they had become addicted to the drug he secretly served in his stories.

The café owner walked up to the lad, held out his purse, and handed him out five shriveled dollar bills. He smiled and said, “You know I don’t need these.” But before the lad could hand it back, the owner had turned his back towards him.

“Keep them for future. Save it for the days when I fire you,” the owner said with a chuckle, waving his finger in the air. And then the owner left.

The young lad had his bunk in the store of the café, and pretty much everything he needed in this world was there.

Retiring from the day, he switched off the lamps and closed his eyes. And within no time, he was in his stories, stories for the following day, stories which waited for its audience.

The following evening, as usual, the café was full of beautiful Spanish women, ravishing to say the least. So at peace, they were listening to the stories. It was a sight to watch.

A woman’s silence is all a man longs for- when she is listening to every word you say. Because you know deep inside, she is falling in love with you, however far and different you may be.

But this was not going to be the same any longer. A young, pretty maiden walked in through the door. She looked so innocent that all other women who looked ravishingly beautiful now looked like a pack of wolves staring at an innocent lamb.

The young lad raised his eyes as the ebony smell of her body hit him. For that instant, he was stuck, and no one but the damsel and he felt the moment. That was when he realized he was smiling stupidly.

It took him a lot of such moments to come back to life. He cleared his throat and finished the story.  For the first time in his life, he felt the urge to finish a story, for he wanted to speak to the girl. He knew she would come to congratulate him.

Unceasingly, his eyes searched for the girl as he shook hands with people who came to thank him, but she never came …

Going to sleep was particularly strange that night. He tossed left and right, but couldn’t find the right comfort. Yet he was smiling and found himself in a strange world. It was a long night, a dreamless night.

The following evening, he didn’t have a story to tell for the dreamless night. He didn’t remember any of his previous ones too.

So the women had coffee and chattered in disappointment, talking and gossiping through the happenings of the day.

The night repeated itself. The days and evenings did the same …

The storyteller was out of stories…

The café gradually lost its ‘customers.’ and the owner was left with no other choice but to ask the young lad to leave.

He packed his bag, his small tattered bag, the only bag he had which had all his worldly possessions. He headed to the market place to catch a bus for he wanted to leave everything behind.

As he walked uneasily through the market place, the ebony smell hit him again. Startled in excitement, as if a baby to the sound of its mother, he turned. The strange smile was back but short-lived this time, for she was holding the hand of another man who could barely walk.

He noticed the pensive expressions, the paralyzed look in her eyes. He walked up to her, dropped his bag at her feet, and said,” I hope it’s enough. I never used it, never felt the need.”  He smiled, looked in her deep eyes. He could feel the flow of tears through them.

So he left, keeping himself strong. He had realized love was not about loving someone and expecting something in return. But it’s actually about the inability to see someone in tears. It’s about the power to witness two loving souls and to feel their pain, and feeling the happiness by seeing them smile together. And it only grows when you know that it was you who made them smile.

 This way, it is eternal and heavenly…

Now he could sleep in peace. He could have his stories again. Only now, they were about eternal and true love. He used to tell them to people who would come to visit him under the tree.

But later, this became a pilgrimage for all the spirits in love. For them, it was a place where they found true solace. For him, it was just another day at work.

To read more of Kumar’s stories, click here: Brains and Heart

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Interview with Pramod Kumar- Writing as Freeing

“It’s important to get the feelings out and not keep them inside yourself.”

Pramod

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in a small village in Kerala, India.

Was writing a part of your life from a very young age?

The first time I got published in a newspaper was when I was in 7th Grade. I used to write short poems back then.

You said that you wrote more when you were dealing with sadder or heavier emotions in your life. How did the process of writing about these experiences make you feel?

Writing helped me with dealing with sadness. I felt relieved after writing stories about the experiences. Sometimes, as a guy, you have very few people around you to talk to about your feelings, especially when everyone is trying to come across as macho as they can. When I wrote my feelings down in a story, I could read them and talk to myself through them. Who else knows you better than yourself, right? Now, with the stories, I could separate the guy who was sad from my self for a little while, and talk to him. Now I could share the pain and it felt better.

Wow! I love how you describe that. Talking to the sad self.

Does reading those pieces now bring up the old emotions or memories?

Reading my blog now with all of those old pieces is just like reading a diary entry.  I feel good. I believe our emotions dry down as we age. These pieces I wrote back then still keep me green. I am glad I wrote what I felt. It’s important to get the feelings out and not keep them inside yourself.

“Show, don’t tell” is a very common tip given to writers. I get lured into your writing instantaneously, from the very first sentences, because of the way you describe the feelings, emotions and details of things around and within your characters.

Are you aware that you are doing this or does it just come to you naturally?

Honestly, I am not sure if I could have been able to write it in any other way. I wrote as I remembered the experiences. When we sit in the sun and are having a conversation with someone, the sun warms our skin. If you are having a difficult conversation, it might make you uncomfortable, and if you are sitting with someone you like, you would love the warmth of the sun. I just happen to write about it. To me, it’s a simple thing that everyone can relate to.

It’s interesting that in the two pieces I’ve read so far of yours, it isn’t obvious what the setting for the story is- whether it is in India or Canada or even somewhere else. Do you still write creatively like this no matter which home or setting you are actually in, or does the environment around you, especially where you are living, dictate how much or whether you will be writing?

The stories you read were written when I was 22 years young. I was in India back then- confused, with less self-direction and with a million things going wrong.  Writing helped me work through this. In my opinion, it’s not the geography that dictates the flow or the settings of the story but the place in life that you are in. Happy, sad, tired- it’s all in the state of heart. Continue reading

French Flows Like a Dance- Interview with Oceane- French Teacher

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Which part of France are you from?

I am from a small city in the North of France called Saint Amand les Eaux, close to Lille.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a French teacher?

It’s funny actually how teaching became my life purpose without me even noticing. My mom was a teacher, and I originally never wanted to become one, as I was seeing all the drawbacks of the job. But when I was 16, I became a French and Mathematics tutor for the younger kids of my neighborhood.

Then, when I was 20, I became a diving instructor as I was completely in love with scuba diving (and still am).  I wanted to transmit my love for this amazing activity to the greatest number of people I could. And teaching was a great way to do so.

After that, when I arrived in Vancouver in 2016, I started my business of teaching French classes online and on-site. I could see there was a big love for the French culture on the West Coast, and it was quite inspiring to help lead and support that.

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Do you teach students of all ages?

Yes, I do teach to students of all ages. I usually like working with students who are over 11 years old, and I especially like working with adults. I find that by those ages, learning French is a real choice made by the student, and not an obligation forced by parents or a school.

I love your video on your website. I can already feel your passion for teaching through that, and have witnessed your charisma in person. I can just imagine how fun and interactive your lessons are. What do you think makes your classes more appealing than other language classes?

I think the major plus of my classes is how much I really do care. I do care that my students get what is being taught, and that they improve and succeed. I make this commitment to them and to myself, because I know how vulnerable it can feel to learn a language. And I want to provide a safe learning environment and a comfortable space in which my students can develop their skills and feel supported.

As a language coach, my aim is to have people feeling great when they learn with me. That’s why the name of my program is “Have Fun Learning French,” because it should be fun. I believe you remember things better if you have fun and if you work on things that truly interest you. Sometimes, you have to learn some things by heart, but even then, you can still turn it into a game.

I like that you do this with adults as well. Sometimes, I think people forget that adults needs play and fun to learn better too.

Yes, and this is particulary important when learning a language. Because at school, you learn French by the book- the conventional French. But most French people use slang ninety percent of the time. So after learning French in a regular school, people are able to express themselves in well-put together sentences.

But when those same people arrive in France for holidays or business, they are completely lost because the French people around them speak with words they have never heard of. They wouldn’t learn this in a regular school. So I do teach slang in my class and a lot of cultural facts. Understanding how a culture works is already half of the lesson learned and makes a big difference.

I am really impressed by your confidence and wide range of interests at such a young age. Where do you think this confidence comes from?

As an extrovert, I have always been used to speaking in public and communicating with others. It gives you confidence when you do it a greater number of times.

So do you think you have always been this way?

I think it developed even more from my experience on the road. I did travel a lot and lived in different countries since I was a little kid. Problem solving when you travel is part of your daily routine. After solving a lot of different problems, you gain confidence in your ability to face the unknown and adapt. Sometimes you even feel invincible as you get out of complicated and tough situations. I’m young, but I am already counting a lot of amazing experiences that have been put in my “life bag”, and this has humbled me. I feel a deep joy from this because I believe these experiences make me a better teacher too.

That’s a great answer!  I think you can inspire others to feel invincible too. I like how you can see the connections between your life experience and your teaching ability.

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Speaking of connections, I was curious if you think your dancing experience has influenced your teaching in any ways. Do you see any connections between the two?

I see both dancing and the French language as a continuous flow. I usually say the French language is a little stream that runs down the valley. It’s all round and every word is linked to the other. It’s a beautiful flow of words that make sense only because they are all together, like the water drops that create the stream.

It’s the same with dancing. When you dance, your movements make sense because they are flowing. Everything moves together: you and your partner, your hand with your arms, your arms with your chest, your chest with your legs, and so on. You have a notion of continuity and fluidity.

Wow! Now you can add poet to your list of skills. That is beautifully put.

Well, once I understood this, it made it easier to explain to my students why some things they are learning will make sense and come together eventually, even though at first, it may all seem hard to get. We need to see the bigger picture and realize every small detail contributes to the beautiful whole canvas of life- like when we dance. It is the same when learning a new language.

It’s funny how we often hear dance being described as a language spoken through the body and movement. But this is so insightful to see a language like dance. Now I am going to be looking at languages and dance with a whole new depth thanks to you.

What do you think makes French in particular a unique language to learn?

This is a hard question to answer because in my opinion, every language is worth learning. But I’d say that French is a culture based on accuracy and reflection. As the comedian Steve Martin once said: “Boy, those French: they have a different word for everything!” It’s so true.

So I’d say what I love the most about this language is all the nuances it has. I guess this is part of what makes it unique, topped with its very funny and weird expressions sometimes. You can check out my Facebook page to get to know some of these French expressions and fun facts.

French is a very special language. And I can definitely say that I am proud to represent part of the French language and culture abroad.

To find out more about Oceane, or to register for her French classes,

click on the link below:

Have Fun Learning French

 

Interview With Elina Sumichan- Dance Brought Me Back to Myself

Photo by BachataX Toronto (2)

Photo by BachataX

You have been dancing a few different dances over the years.  Is Bachata your favorite?

I semi-retired from dancing for about 5 years, and I recently came back to it in the last year and half.  I realized how much I missed dancing. Then I ran into Davy, who is now my dance partner, and Bachata fusion has been our main focus.  But I love all styles of dance combined! I’m a fusion dancer.

You have a background in solo dance first, rather than partner dance, right? 

Yes. As a child, at 5 years old, I actually started with traditional Balinese dancing back when I was living in Bali. Then I learned modern dance, and after that, I did Jazz and Hip Hop throughout high school.  I picked up Balinese dancing again for a few months one summer vacation as a teenager, which is probably where I got my hand styling from. I was dance obsessed ever since I was a teenager, and I learned everything I could as far as other dances- from Hip Hop, Contemporary, Ballet, Belly Dancing, and even Flamenco!

How did you get into partner dance?

The first time I learned Salsa was actually in Bali, when I was 14. It was during the summer holidays when I was with my family. When I came back from the trip, I started to take lessons from various instructors in Vancouver and discovered the social dance scene here.  I spent my summer breaks for the next few years taking private lessons with a teacher in Bali and going out to socials. For a few years after that, throughout high school and university, I worked at a dance studio in Burnaby. That was when I started learning all partner dances on top of all the Latin dances I was already doing- from Latin Ballroom, Standard Ballroom, Argentine Tango, and West and East Coast Swing.

Do you think you got more out of partner dances or solo styles of dance? 

To this day, all of the mix of random dance training that I did contributes to my style, skills and abilities.  There wasn’t one training that I did that became irrelevant.  The fact that I exposed myself to everything gave me body movement awareness that I probably would not have gotten if I hadn’t tried a variety of dances. Continue reading

Dance Connects Cultures- Interview with Masanori Fujita

Masa8Where did you learn to dance? And which style of dance did you start with?

I started breakdancing nine years ago in Osaka, Japan.  From the first time that I saw the amazing technique put in the dance, I was totally hooked.  So, the next day, I went to a dance school to learn and I also practised on the street.

After I came to Canada, I just practised breakdancing first.  I didn’t know Hustle at that time. But at some of the events, some of the dancers were doing hustle. I saw it and thought I really wanted to learn to dance it. Everyone looked like they were really enjoying it. So that’s what made me start dancing Hustle. Continue reading

Faith, Freedom and Truth- Interview With Andra Carmina

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Which styles of dance are you into?  Do you have a favorite?

​I started dancing in 2009 after taking some salsa and bachata lessons at McGill. My dancing journey eventually followed me to Toronto, where I got introduced to zouk, and from there on, no other dance has had my heart quite like zouk does. I’ve dabbled into other dances like bellyDancing, kizomba, and dancehall.  While they do bring out certain parts of me, zouk allows me to express myself in ways I almost can’t explain. Continue reading

Following Your Heart- An Interview with Madan Kumar

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Where do you live and what styles of dance do you dance?

I live in Mumbai and I dance Salsa, Bachata & Kizomba

What got you into dance?

Dancing was my hobby since childhood, but I never knew I would end up as a full time dancer, teacher and performer.

I remember being asked why, if I’m Indian, I dance Latin dances instead of Indian dance. I I love Indian dance, but it just wasn’t what I gravitated to. And I thought it was a bit of an ignorant question at the time. Haha. But now, here I am, asking you the same question (laughs). Since you are in India and Indian, what made you choose Latin dances instead of Indian dances?  Continue reading

Interview With Sia Kaskas- Revolutionizing Aging

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I really admire you for your strength and agility as a kickboxer, but also for being in a field that traditionally might have been thought more ‘suitable’ for men.  

Did you find it hard to work your way up in kickboxing, especially as a female, in terms of having support and being taken seriously?

Staying at Champions Martial Arts Academy for all the years that I did- from being a novice student to becoming an instructor and employee- had its challenges. I would say it made it easier having female role models around me- such as Master Ingrid Katzberg and Sensei Anita Katzberg. These two sisters own and run the school (along with Master Farid Dordar). Their strength was so inspiring and motivating for me and thousands of other female students in the city.

Yes. I remember them being highly regarded throughout the school and community. 

Yes, and Master Ingrid and Master Farid welcomed all genders to train and compete. I never felt any judgement from either one of them. The only challenges I encountered were from a minority of younger males who felt uncomfortable around me. I competed early on in my training years in eight tournaments and in five ring-fights and I was always the oldest female among the fight team. So that was tough in terms of judgment. And I later faced another challenge when I began instructing. Once again, some males found it difficult to be instructed by a female. This led me to train harder and to show them I am not as limited as they think. Of course now, after fifteen years of instructing, one builds a reputation and I have not had any issues with this in a long time.

Continue reading

“Work It Out”- Interview With Reuben Avery

Reuben on Trumpet

I know you first as a musician – specifically as a keyboardist and trumpeter. You have been playing music since you were a child, right? 

Yes, I’ve been playing music since I was very young. I grew up on a farm and in our home there, my family had an old upright baby grand piano. When I was a toddler, I would crawl over to the piano and pound on the pedals. This would shake the sound board enough to make some noise. My mom eventually figured out that I was interested in the instrument, so she popped me in my high chair and sat me in front of the keyboard. I would happily plunk away for hours on end.

Wow! That’s amazing.  And kind of adorable (smiles).

Yeah, I think I have improved a bit since those days (smiles), but we’re not sure since we can’t find the cassette tapes that contained my recordings that were made on our small Fisher Price recorder.

Aww… haha (smiles).

I love how it seems that you chose the instrument, and your mom saw your interest in it and just encouraged it, rather than you being pushed into it. I think forcing kids to take music lessons can sometimes actually make them lose all enjoyment in it.

Yes, well I did eventually start taking piano lessons in grade 2, and was off and on with them throughout my grade school days. I always enjoyed improvising on the instrument and creating my own music…often much more than practising what was assigned to me by my various teachers. As such, piano, has always been my first love and I can still entertain myself for hours on it. I just love being able to create lush harmonies and lay creative melodies over them.   Continue reading

Jessica Lamdon- Why Zouk? Photo Feature

I love how my passion for dance has allowed me to meet people from all over the world-people who, I’m sure, I might not have met otherwise. Some of these individuals are inspiring teachers, others literally take my breath away on the dance floor, and a few have an infectious energy about them that is so uplifting for any who are around them.

Jessica Lamdon happens to be one of those rare souls in the dance world that demonstrates all of these qualities.

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Not only is Jessica a beautiful dancer and performer- invited to congresses and dance festivals throughout many different countries, but she is also an encouraging and warm hearted individual. Her personable, welcoming nature motivated me to want to learn Zouk more.  But it also helped me feel connected to something at a time when I was feeling lost and heavy hearted.

Sometimes, the right words at the right time can lead us to places we didn’t even know we would go. Continue reading