Vidyun Sabhaney is a writer primarily interested in comics and visual narrative, based in New Delhi. Her comics have previously been published by Penguin India, Blaft Publications, and COMIX.INDIA. Her research into visual narrative traditions has been supported by India Foundation for the Arts and has been featured in ArtConnect as well as Sutradhar and Marg Magazine. Vidyun runs an independent comics publishing project, Captain Bijli Comics, which aims to develop new content, distribution and dialogue around the form.
Her comic, “Broken Lines”, grew out of her research into the pata chitra tradition of Bengal, which combines painted scroll illustrations with songs to tell stories.
Harini Kannan is an illustrator based out of Chennai, India. She began her foray into the field as a cartoonist and amateur caricaturist, but was drawn towards the bright colours, quick wit, and charm that she saw in illustration and graphic design. She currently spends her free time watching washing machines swirling comfortingly and walking into street lamps, waiting for inspiration to strike.
Her contribution to “Drawing the Line” opens the book; aptly, the story is about a baby girl still in her mother’s womb. The comic looks at the expectations of family upon girls before they are even old enough to make decisions themselves. Harini explains:
When a baby girl is born — especially in a South Indian family — the most important question is whether she is dark-skinned or fair. Her complexion is directly linked to how much dowry the family will have to give in order to get her married. In my story, the mother has gone through a lot in her own life, due to her complexion, and doesn’t want her daughter to suffer the same fate. The baby, however, has her own ideas about the matter!
Reshu Singh is an illustrator and artist working in New Delhi. She studied Applied Art at College of Art, New Delhi and graduated in 2012. She draws, writers, paints and makes comics.
Reshu’s piece, “The Photo” has much to say about inter-generational differences. She writes: |
The idea of the story was born out of observing the general restlessness that develops within a home when a child reaches marriageable age. …‘The Photo’ is the story of a girl named Bena who doesn’t want to get married while everyone in her family has a different take on it. But more than that, it’s about Bena facing her fear of losing her ‘true’ self. The story is a study of the idea of identity and of our expectations of ourselves and each other.
Soumya Menon is an animation filmmaker and illustrator. Her contribution to Drawing the Line will strike a chord with anyone who is familiar with the poster series of ‘The Ideal Boy’. She rediscovered and began collecting them during her student days. These, along with matchbox labels and old film posters added to her growing hoard of ‘found objects.’
Regarding her creative process, Soumya explains:
In their all-too-familiar textbook illustration style, their garish colours and warped perspective, I found an Even More Warped perspective: the girls in all these posters were forever depicted doing some kind of chore in the background: cooking, cleaning and dutifully serving the Ideal Boy.
This graphic narrative is an attempt at turning things around. A between-the-panels exploration of some of these preset notions of the Ideal Girl. I wanted the Ideal Girl to tell her own story. One in which she is set free.
Hemavathy Guha is a unique up-and-coming Indian artist based in New Delhi, specializing in painting, printmaking, and art installation.With graduate degrees in Economics and Museology, Hema has also received formal training in Fine Arts at the College of Arts and Crafts, Madras. Guha’s preferred medium is oil on canvas; working figuratively, she clones a single shape in various sizes, filling up the canvas with multiples of a single form. Using a vivid palette and a deliberately contrasting background, she manages to render for her groups of figures a context or setting in which to exist. Guha’s work is at once playful and narrative, and easily recognizable due to the uniqueness of the form.
Her contribution to Drawing the Line is the intimate comic, “Asha, Now.” Hemavathy explains:
Rape or sexual abuse when committed by a stranger, is often reported by the victim, and she is far more likely to be treated sympathetically. Sexual abuse within the family is far less reported, and a victim of incest is rarely heard and even more rarely gets justice.
Love and respect for elders — as is traditionally expected in India — often stills her voice. Parents fear for their family ‘honour’, and often dare not take any action against the offending male who enjoys a superior status in the hierarchy with regard to children.
In my story, as is often the case in India, siblings share the same room and usually the same bed, due to lack of space. I have taken the life story of one such girl which is not entirely fictional. Abused by her brother, Asha seeks her father’s support. Failing this, she musters the courage to leave home and to build a new life of her own. But the scars remain…
You can watch Hema at work on one of her paintings HERE.
Bhavana Singh is relatively new to the vocation of art and illustration, describing her involvement in “Drawing the Line” as one where she “discovered” she could draw. Her comic, “Melanin”, tackles a subject of great import in India and internationally today: imagining the inner life of skin pigment in a world that pressures many to associate darkness with negative perceptions of beauty and self-worth:
The odd inner life of a pigment is not easy to express, but my absolute despair and bewilderment at the absurdity of human desires helped. Of course, ‘fairness’ and beauty are at the visible spectrum of difficulties we concoct for ourselves, and the many standards we judge ourselves by simply boggle the mind.
I’m just really glad to learn that I can actually ‘draw’ and will continue illustrating.
Deepani Seth works as a researcher, designer and occasionally an illustrator, chiefly in New Delhi.
For her contribution, Deepani created “The Walk,” which carries the reader, almost hypnotically, into the life of an anonymous Indian woman. Seth explains the creative process:
This story started as a piece of nonfiction, based on a day spent with a woman in a small town in eastern India. It was just supposed to be a telling of a part of her day, which could have been any among the several everydays of her life. In the process of writing and illustrating it, the story became something else entirely. The lines between fiction and nonfiction blurred. It became about a woman, in any place, with or without a job, with a home or without one, walking across a city that could have been any city anywhere. Some of it became about my walks around my city, around my many cities.
It is through the telling of the stories of others that we are able to sometimes articulate our own.
I would like to thank my anonymous protagonist for letting me into her life and through it, a part
Diti Mistry is a doodler, people-watcher, and storyteller.
Her comic, “Mumbai Local” really comes to life with the visuals. You can almost hear the train, feel the jostling of the car as you move through the panels. Diti explains the comic as a part of her experience of moving to Mumbai a few years ago:
In order to get under the skin of the city you need to take a ride in a Mumbai local. It opens your eyes to the hardship and determination of people. Never one for the hustle and bustle, it took me time to adjust. But it soon dawned on me that I wasn’t a visitor anymore.
You see, I’m a person who loves to find stories and emotions behind every face. I love to doodle their complex identities, their expressions and emotions, portraying them through my eyes.
I visualized the Ladies’ compartment as a being in itself, with a certain energy that was quite different from all the other compartments of the train. The women passengers are so animated! I wanted to capture some of this.
Angela Ferrao is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer. Her work, to date, includes the children’s book Fuloos Plays with the Sun. She is currently working on her third book for children, titled Fuloos Wins the Race…Almost.
In composing her comic “Ladies, Please Excuse” for Drawing the Line, Angela writes:
It was always impressed upon us when we were growing up that we should have a good education and a sound trade in hand. This was supposed to equip us for lifelong jobs and financial security. But once I had obtaining all the requisite qualifications, I found that it wasn’t so easy to just sail into a job and shop happily ever after.
Every interview threw up different questions, and the goal posts would be shifted. Did it have to do with me being a woman? Of course it did. I noticed that men did not seem to have such problems gaining employment or financial security. Through my short piece, I have tried to focus on some of the issues that women face in their struggle to earn a living with dignity.
Priyanka Kumar likes fiction, tea, paint and stories with open endings, as you’ll soon discover…
This story is primarily an afternoon story, born out of memories of tea, post-school sunlight and ‘Enter The Dragon’ dubbed in Tamil playing on television, my grandmother offering an exultant fist-pump every time something explosive and magic happened onscreen.
Also contained in it are images I remember of several living rooms. All of them were similar in one way or another, but populated by warm, wise, interesting women who were experts at improvisation — stories, scandals, recipes, cushion covers, nothing escaped embellishment. Their worlds almost outshone the ones my friends and I made up on a regular basis.
Kaveri Gopalakrishnan is a freelance illustrator and comics artist based in Bangalore. Small personal stories, sketching while traveling and long conversations excite and inspire her. She focuses on making work driven by characters and content. Her love for sequential narrative, she says, comes from growing up reading MAD magazine (a background in Animation Film Design from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, probably didn’t hurt).
About her comic “Basic Space” Kaveri notes:
Growing up, I could never feel completely comfortable when travelling by public transport or even walking down the street. Like every single teenage girl, I (sometimes unconsciously) adopted different behaviour patterns: dressing differently, changing my body language in public, or trying to blend into my surrounding more to avoid curious or aggressive stares in public.
It was a hot summer afternoon in Delhi that led to a whole day of these conversations with fifteen different women, of various age groups and backgrounds. These, in turn, inspired the questioning, sometimes painfully funny, too-serious mini-
comics in ‘Basic Space.’
Ita Mehrota is an artist and storyteller, specializing in work that is public and community-driven. She works and lives in New Delhi. For her comic, “The Poet, Sharmila”, Ita delves into a realm of comics journalism, fusing an historic political struggle with her own personal development:
I met with Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila first in New Delhi and then a year later I travelled to Imphal to meet her at the hospital ward of Imphal Central Jail. The little conversation with Sharmila and meeting with other activists for peace in Manipur radically altered my idea of nationhood, struggle, unity and also the body.
Thin and frail, her hair spread across her shoulders, and tucked into a large hospital bed, Sharmila was able to speak with such measured strength and depth of meaning that even back in Delhi, I couldn’t stop thinking of her.
Neelima P.A. is a queer feminist, shies away from being called an artist but is known to art away in the virtual world. Her work is not for the light-hearted or the narrow-minded, for it is mostly loud and about women, large bodies and queer love.
Neelima’s contribution to drawing the line was an intense comic called “The Prey”, inspired in response to conversations with her blogging mother about the nature of women’s writing and those who try to forcibly confine it. Neelima explains her artistic process:
The challenge when illustrating an existing story that uses beautiful language and a distinct dialect is to express that which is lost in translation and transliteration. To avoid that, this story was imagined as a silent story with speech only in the last frame. The story is set in rural Kerala and in its simplicity conveys the unpredictability of nature.
Samidha Gunjal is an freelance artist who loves visual storytelling through illustrations and animation. She has illustrated many children’s books and enjoys drawing for kids. As a self-taught artist, she has enjoyed experimenting with styles and mediums to develop her own style. She spends most of her time drawing in her sketchbook, creating cartoons, illustrations and painting, using traditional mediums (mainly pencil on paper, inking and watercolors). Currently, she is working on her own drawing series called ‘Silent Conversations’ and an animation film project to be revealed soon!
Here contribution to Drawing the Line is the comic entitled “Someday”:
‘Someday’ is a story about one day, a day unlike any other. The girl in my story has to deal with what is euphemistically called ‘eve-teasing’ from the men she passes on the street. This kind of sexual harassment is a daily reality for most women in India. Initially she ignores the cat-calls and whistles. Her fear grows but in that moment she finds her strength. Her anger takes over and her emotions explode- she becomes Kali!Kali is a Hindu goddess associated with Shakti, the force of divine female energy. Kali is the fierce avatar of the goddess Durga who, in need of help summons Kali to combat Rakshasa – the demons. Kali is the goddess of Time, Change, and Destruction, and is often portrayed as dark and violent.