Indian Roots of Facilitation

Just came across the story of "Vikram vetal" retold by "Dr Devdutta Patnaik". We all have heard this story and till today serials based on this are being made, and Indian audience always enjoys it, we have an internal connect to these stories and I completely believe that storytelling can be a very powerful form in training, we all love stories, we have heard them from our mother, granny, grandpa or sometimes from fathers. It gives us immense comfort and a huge cultural connect to what has been taught by the trainer you want to hear them more and more and more.

So let's just look at this story again Dr. Devdutta's style...

Once upon a time king called Vikramaditya was asked for a favour by a rishi, and as per the Dharma, king had to fulfil the wishes of the rishi, so the rishi said-"I am about to conclude my ritual and I need a special ingredient for that-a ghost or a vetal, so go to crematorium or samshan and get him"

King being the Vikramaditya who was known for his wit, generosity and a great warrior agreed to do the favour.

At night he ventures out of his palace towards the crematorium, the rishis words echoing in his mind-"do not talk to vetal else he will go back or run away"

There he sees a vetal on the banyan tree hanging upside down, looking dangerous with his red eyes watching Vikramaditya.

Vikramaditya moves ahead boldly and pulls him down with all his strength, the vetal struggles but Vikramaditya manages to pull him down and starts walking towards palace where the rishi is waiting for him.

Vetal wants to run away, so forces the king to speak-But since the king has been instructed by rishi, he keeps mum.

Now the game starts -

The vetal tells him a story which ends with a puzzle and instigates him to answer it, he says-"if you do not give the right answer even after knowing it you will have thousand pieces of your head" and the king very well knows if he speaks the vetal goes back to the same banyan tree.

Each time the vetal tells a story, ends with a question.

- the king being very intelligent, invariably knows the answer and when he answers the vetal goes back

And the cycle repeats again.

A wonderful story and has entertained all of us for generations. Mothers have used the series to put their children to sleep.

But as a trainer I thought this story had so much to learn from.

At end of the story the vetal gives him a question and forces Vikramaditya to think and ponder over what he knows and use his wisdom to reflect on what he thinks is right.

Hang on…is this not modern era's case study?

Devdutta adds that the story is not only about king and vetal… but also a message-"that to become Vikramaditya one has to solve the problem at the end of the story" aha! what a thought!!!

Look at our usual training programs, trainer tells and participants listen.

Complete win win situation.

For the trainer, it is a huge power kick, I know the solution, I am ready with the content - you listen.

"Jo bola wo karo-apna dimag mat lagao" have we not heard this many times?

And participants are also happy. Are they not there to have fun and feel refreshed? So the trainer pours water and participants are bound to feel fresh…

Both the parties are happy. but where is the learning?

And what if the trainer behaves like vetal?

What if he asks questions and forces participants to think and come up with solutions that may suit them the most?

Does that mean all the participants must be actually treated like Vikramaditya?

Which will actually give them the feeling of being powerful enough to look at the questions differently and come up with probable solutions themselves…

And isn't this facilitation all about?

Where you do not give ready answers and the group emerges with ideas and reflect on the problem creatively in an open atmosphere where the facilitator does not answer but just asks and creates emotional turbulence so that participants think with brain and heart together thereby arriving at solutions which they never thought before..

At the end I'll leave you with a question-

Who has more wisdom - Vikramaditya or Vetal?