Mehak Mirza Prabhu is a former entrepreneur, writer, storyteller, performer, and blogger. At the face of loss, Mehak found her calling as a storyteller at thirty-three.
She is the founder of Jhumritalaiya, an online storytelling school.
Mehak is a social reform enthusiast, standing against various issues such as gender-inequality, child abuse, etc.
Storiyaan had a conversation with the brilliant performer who spoke about mental-health, the importance of the word “rebel” and her writing.
Questions and answers
Do you think storytelling is a lost art?
Art is always around us, finding us. It’s we who, at times, lose our sight to appreciate the simpler things in life. Storytelling is so much a part of our day to day lives that it will never really get lost.
During your school days, did you take part in extempore or debate competitions, or was the art of storytelling just something that was in your blood?
On the contrary, till the age of 33, I’ve never stepped on stage. I had major stage fright. I still do, unless it’s to tell a story.
Jane & John marked the beginning of your #instabook series. What was your source of inspiration for Jane & John? What was the thought process behind the short, sad, and sweet story?
All my stories usually start with characters. I meet them, and if their personalities seem unique, I get pulled into their worlds and end up telling their stories as they show it to me. The Instabook series started because of my fear of performing.
Sending voice notes to your Genie was a small task to you, which later proved life-changing. What was your take on storytelling before this incident?
I love the research you have done about my journey. Yes, I started storytelling through audio recordings sent out to friends. Before that, my only brush with Storytelling was a few of Nilesh Mishra’s stories on the radio.
Rebel is not a negative term, which everybody needs to understand today. Why do you think the word rebel should be normalized now more than ever?
Simply because we have the power to change only ‘today.’
Paper is too restrictive a medium for you, as you have mentioned before. So, according to you, what are some of the nuances that are bought out by the audio medium of presentation?
On paper, it’s the beautiful world of words. In Performance, it’s a world of all six senses. I find it more satisfying and makes me feel more alive to perform, but it all begins with the paper. I equally respect both.
You have said that characters are people who cannot be built, created, or developed. Why is that aspect important?
I believe, based on my process of story creation, if I treat my characters as humans right from the start, even though fictional, they feel real. So instead of creating them, I meet them and get to know them.
Having suffered from a mental illness yourself, what are a few things we as individuals can do that might help someone who is also suffering?
Be aware that mental illness is real. And please help them to get medical assistance at the right time just as you would for any severe physical ailment.
Having discovered your passion so late in life and multiple career changes, what advice would you give those who themselves might be lost and looking for some direction?
Listen to the signs the universe is giving you. Step up, step out, and follow the calling.
A mother, storyteller, writer, and a businesswoman, how did you find the balance between all the fields?
Once I realized that multitasking is a myth, in reality, one can only do one thing at a time. After that, I simply worked on prioritizing. Once your priorities are set, it does not seem like balancing. It becomes a routine that falls in place.
Your story musical 'Ek Raaz batau main' is powerful and radiates an aura of emotions, desires, realities, insecurities of an artist. What was your inspiration behind writing this piece?
It’s tough to pinpoint inspiration, especially in a piece that is as layered as Ek Raaz batau main. All I can say is that I feel blessed to have been chosen as the medium for that story. It’s special.
The Game of Life is yet another beautiful piece of work. Do you believe that we all are in a game and intertwined in different rounds?
Metaphorically, sometimes I do. But more importantly, we also have many chances even if we fail once, if only we continue to play.
Do you ever have moments where you worry about how your audiences might not get the gist of your narrative? What efforts do you take to make sure that your message is conveyed to the viewers?
I make sure to be completely honest with what I feel and express. The reasons are only and mainly to tell the story honestly and effortlessly. The audience needs to trust you, and then the wall breaks.
In your Ted Talk, you symbolized the chair as your zero. A concept that touched so many hearts do you think sometimes we all need to go back to our zeroes only to come back stronger?
Going back to zero can never be done by choice. It’s the force of the universe that pushes you down to give you a chance to bounce back higher.
You don't believe in taking pride in suffering. What, according to you, makes suffering worse?
More than pride, I realized that making friends with that phase of suffering is essential. Ignoring it, judging it, or hating it makes it worse.
Mehak, you believe in things like 'Makhtab,’ 'Butterfly effect,' and you think that you were always destined to be a storyteller. Do you think we all have a void in ourselves until we find our purpose in life?
Purpose in life is ever-evolving. We will never be able to see the bigger picture that He has written for us. The void never fills. That hunger is good.
1. What do you prefer, storytelling in English or Hindi? — It depends on the language of the character.
2. Must-Read Book. – Sybil
3. Your favorite storyteller – Gulzar & Mrs. Dubey
4. Do you believe in destiny? – yes, ever since destiny started believing in me.
5. Your experience during the One-Woman company phase in three words? — I still am.