For those who lack a definite spirit of adventure, bookstores are special because that is where your adventures truly begin.
Thankfully, not going to bookstores did not mean not being able to buy myself books. Not only did the Kindle come to my rescue, Amazon proved to be an amazing place to keep up with Indian comics.
So if the website’s recommendations seem trite and you are discouraged from believing that Indian graphic novels are worthy of your time, spare a few minutes to read about some releases over the years that might make you change your mind.
Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir by Malik Sajad, 2015
This coming of age story written and illustrated by Malik Sajad introduces us to a seven year old boy growing up amidst political turmoil in Kashmir. A heartbreaking and personal story about the everyday lives of present day Kashmiris, this is an undeniably important political graphic narrative from present day India.
Like Art Spiegelman’s masterpiece, Maus, anthropomorphic hangul deer, assume the role of the Kashmiris and guide us through the pages. They show us their homes, take us on walks and even on trips down memory lane.
Munnu’s journey is one that traces more than just violence and heartbreak though. In this book, we find a young boy, helping his father while developing a deep love for art. We find a soothsayer who can chase away nightmares, and we find moments of peace amidst the chaos in Kashmir that is defining generations.
Vyasa: The Beginning by Sibaji Bandyopadhyay and Sankha Banerjee, 2017
When you read an adaptation of the Mahabharata, you expect controversy, stories about beginnings and you expect a masterful storyteller guiding you through the journey. Vyasa manages to deliver both.
Written by Sibaji Bandopadhyay and illustrated by Sankha Banerjee, this 200 page adaptation of the epic Mahabharata, has instances of brilliance scattered through it. For example, Sauti’s movements through the book are expertly choreographed, doing perfect justice to his role as the narrator.
Bandopadhyay’s adaptation does not sway much from the original story of the Mahabharata. But instead of the saccharine representations that have been such an integral part of Indian popular culture, this is definitely cooler, more ‘bad**s’.
Even though Vyasa’s attempt to achieve them is flawed, the first installment allows us to imagine that it is all to come.
Bangalore: A Graphic Novel by Syenagiri, 2017
Tentacles, vigilantes, legends and memories make Bangalore: A Graphic Novel. Made up of familiar legends, streetwise sights and hushed whispers, this anthology of shorts is a tribute to a city that means something different to everyone who knows her.
The second in installment in Syenagiri’s Every City is a Story series, stories in this book tread across genres, travel through times and expertly avoid cliches. The various styles chosen by the artists do nothing but make their stories more convincing. Even when in 2D.
And oh, if you look close enough, you might find a familiar name telling a story of a vigilante who watches the city from the rooftops.
First Hand Graphic Narratives From India – Volume 02: Exclusion by Yoda Press, 2018
In India’s first non-fiction graphic anthology we realise that it isn’t easy to recreate reality, historical events or even personal experiences. But we also learn that it is possible to change an ordinary story into an extraordinary one by knowing how to tell it. That perhaps is the very important difference between all stories and ones worth remembering.
The editors, Vidyun Sabhaney and Orijit Sen know that comics is serious business. Serious enough to bring into limelight issues that have incessantly been sidestepped by mainstream media.
Even though we are familiar with the likes of Sacco or Delisle, graphic non-fiction was a relatively unexplored territory in India. But First Hand’s efforts to change that are commendable.
Indira by Devapriya Roy and Priya Kuriyan, 2018
At the first glance, you are almost willing to pass the chance to read this book. After all, biographical comics aren’t rare in India and neither are they particularly great. But if you do give this book a chance, you’ll realise that it is not what you expected. And pleasantly so.
Not only does it serve as a great history lesson, it introduces us to some very relatable female characters, some very inspiring ones and also gives us a rather lovely glimpse into a world of loss and grief. Written by Devapriya Roy and illustrated by Priya Kuriyan, Indira is a comic I wish I had while growing up.