Sarla Minni grew up in Mumbai reading any story she could get her hands on, be it something from Reader’s Digest or Enid Blyton. So when her niece asked her to record a few stories and share them with friends and family, Sarla was only too happy to oblige. What she hadn’t anticipated, however, was the incredible popularity she would garner, becoming the Kahaniwali Nani that over 10,000 kids have grown fond of.
She records herself narrating tales from the Panchatantra, stories about Akbar and Birbal, and many others, and sends them across on WhatsApp. Sarla does this two days a week — in Hindi on Tuesday and in English on and Friday — with her voice reaching children across the globe. She also has grown-ups in her list who love listening to her stories. In an interview with The Hindu, she said,
“I research folk tales from all over the world, read different versions of each story. Then I work on a script, record it, and send it to my niece and daughter who give me feedback. After I hear from them, I broadcast it to my subscribers. I try to improvise the stories I read, so that they can be understood by even toddlers, but I try to make them interesting to pre-teens as well.”
Though she grew up with stories, once she shifted to Bengaluru in 2009 she had lost touch with them. So telling stories now is not just for the people who listen to her, but for herself too.
As these stories are a personal experience for Sarla — there are no sound effects or any other additions. The 61-year-old Kahaniwali Nani proudly remembers the day she got 800 subscriptions from Mumbai alone. According to The News Minute, she said,
“Sometimes I get messages like ‘Nani, we are waiting for the next story!’ Many parents told me that their children don’t have grandparents, and Kahaniwali Nani has helped with their absence. Others say that their kids are learning new words, and have started liking stories more now.”