Stone Soup: A popular folktale tells of a visitor to a village who notices that the villagers seldom do anything together. On his travels he has picked up an unusual looking small pebble. He points to this “magic” stone and invites everyone to share in a magical meal prepared with the power of this stone: “stone soup”. But, each one would need to bring something to add to the soup. So all the villagers arrive with carrots, tomatoes, beans and so forth, and soon there is a delicious soup which they all enjoy together. They are delighted at coming back together and sharing and realize the magic of community is not in the stone.
Stone Soup Adda is about sharing anything that has inspired, touched or moved you. The sharing may be in the form of writings and expressions, songs, music, dance, stories, activities, games or presentations.
I was introduced to the Stone Soup Adda by a friend who was mesmerised by the sublime experience. Gatherings are organised by volunteering individuals at their houses, every Tuesday. Accompanied by the same friend I decided to explore this concept of group sharing.
This week the Adda was being hosted by Leslie Nazareth and Mayuri Pandit at their beach house in Juhu, Mumbai. A refreshing breeze gently brushed my face as I entered their house. The setting was calm and serene. Few people were already seated and were engrossed in doing myriad activities, silently.
The session usually begins with a shared hour of silence at 6:30 PM. During this time, one can do anything one wants to do in utter silence. Read, meditate or just sit down and let your thoughts run wild. This miniscule activity can be of great significance in this fast paced world where there’s little time to breathe. As I found myself a corner to sit in, I was greeted by smiles of the strangers sitting around me. One lady had been scribbling something in her notepad. A middle-aged boy was reading a comic book. An old uncle was sitting on a chair, contemplating and smiling at intervals.
At 7:30 PM, Our host Leslie entered the hall and introduced us to the concept of stone soup. He recited the folklore to us. Leslie Nazareth is a music producer and teacher by profession and has been hosting the stone soup adda for the last 6 years. The rules of sharing were simple. We could share anything and everything we wanted to. We just had to say our names and talk. One could also remain silent and listen to others. Interrupting others and speaking out of turn were strictly forbidden.
On that particular Tuesday, there were about 15 members. Each one was a complete stranger to the other 14. The hesitancy of speaking first was overcome by the old man. His name was Aspi Shroff and he wanted to talk about Silence. Silence, according to him, can be so noisy at times and he spoke about metaphysical silence: silence that should exist within us. He said, “I have been contemplating about this concept of silence. We have learnt to be quiet but not silent. At any given time, we are beaming with thoughts; billions of thoughts; Negative, positive, happy, sad, melancholic et cetera. The paradox is this is the noise that we should be aiming to tame. Silence that emanates from within is the answer to the questions that emanate around us.”
The group including me identified with the emotions that Aspi had been talking about. The next in turn was Ranjan Kapadia. He carried forward what Aspi had started but dwelled into the physical sense of silence. Ranjan had been brought up in a slum in Mumbai. He hadn’t witnessed silence in his childhood given that he lived in a clustered shack right next to an expressway. Therefore, he valued silence abundantly in his life.
On the contrary, the next speaker, a German, held a completely opposite view. Living in Germany with both her parents working and the house always empty, she had spent most hours of her days in silence. Her neighbourhood, the public park, restaurants et cetera were always screeching quiet. She felt a strange sense of comfort when she first visited Bombay and thereafter, there was no turning back. Her longing for belonging to some place jostling with human activity and emotions was fulfilled by the City of dreams.
Leslie Nazareth also participates in the session. He spoke about how delighted he had been on performing with ‘bhajan mandlis’ in remote towns of Maharashtra. He said, “These bhajan mandlis comprise of otherwise plain farmers. However, when they take up their instruments they instantaneously inherit the gift of loving life. They lose into the consciousness of their art and enjoy every morsel that comes out of it.” He thereafter explained that on his tours he had witnessed the musical diversity of tribals of Maharastra, called bhajan mandlis and he was on a project to fuse western music with such local cultural bits.
Next was Imroz Alam, an Urdu poet, who recited a beautiful poem from one of his collections and in essence, it highlighted hunger has the evilest of things in the world. The poem was very close to his heart. He had wanted to share his latest piece of art with someone and had finally found solace at the stone soup adda.
At 9 PM, the sharing session came to an end and was succeeded by dinner. The dinner was served by the hosts free of cost to all the participatory members of the group. Certain volunteers had carried food with them to be shared by everyone in accordance with the folklore’s traditions. During this time, each person got a chance to interact with others on a personal scale. Persons who were strangers sometime ago had matured as friends.
Stone Soup Adda acts as a getaway from the plastic world. Here one can fearlessly express thoughts and share artwork without the scrutiny of being judged by others. At times, a strange world feels safer than the home itself.
The stone soup session usually ends after dinner but people are welcome to stay over for an extended period to indulge in a musical exercise. People are motivated to pick instruments and try their hands at music. This part of the session is not only relaxing but also a fun-learning exercise.
Overall, stone soup adda is a great concept and very apt at reducing stress. It also provides a great socializing platform for individuals across diverse platforms. It is at times a mesmerizing experience and one can only wait for Tuesdays to go back for more.
Source: Stone Soup