Rainy day. But it stopped raining when we set out and started pouring when we finished. In between we had some sunny comic relief. Armed with rolls of comics posters that we had made and a pail of glue, we invaded the streets of Kumbharwada, Sri Shakti Nagar and Naik Nagar. In little battalions, we pasted the comics we had made on the walls of houses, compound walls and shutters of shops. Chaitanya Modak, the mentor artist, said that the agenda was to interact with locals and get them talking about our comics – the themes we had portrayed, the incidents depicted and the techniques.
In Naik Nagar, just on the outskirts of Dharavi, the lanes are narrow and maze-like. Sitaram, our logistics man, and many of our participants from the comics workshop are residents of this area and were quite eager to put up their comics to impress their friends and family. On a wall in the lane where he resides, Pinku put up his comic on an accident that occurs during the monsoon game of dahi handi. Priyanka and her sisters pasted their comics in their neighbourhood amidst curious children and bemused women.
Sonali had drawn a comic about the aches and joys of the monsoon season. Her comic showed children making merry in the rains and soon falling ill with monsoon related diseases. Another water theme was found in Nisha’s story about scarcity of drinking water in a village. A small kiosk owner helped us put it up on the detachable shutter of his shop.
Over at Kumbharwada, pasted on the walls was Suryamala’s story of how a woman is torn between the love for her family and her in-laws. Luckily, the story narrates, her in-laws are very understanding about her need to spend time with her own family. A man who read the story told her that he connected with her story and went to say that he had a ‘second marriage’ with another woman just because his mother hated the first
We realised it’s not easy just talking to strangers on the road. We called men, women and children to consider the comics and we discussed stories with them. Some teenage boys teased us but we would like to believe we won them over as well.
At the end of the day the forces got together and shared their experiences. Komal and Jyoti had been motivated to make some more comics on their own. Komal had drawn an elegant comic with wolves and lions to discuss the theme of family planning.
Operation comics street invasion. You could say it brought out the child in us. Exhilarated. Enthused.