Image: A comic strip on double standards for women and men in India by Inedible India-La
“I have been writing for the last 25 years, yet I believe that a picture speaks more than words. In fact they give the reader more space to form individual opinions than when he/she is reading articles,” said 36-year-old Chetana Thirthahalli, who is a freelance journalist–turned-Kannada-comic- strip- artist.
Captivated by idea behind English comic strips of Arathi Parthasarathy and Chaitanya Krishnan’s brainchild -Royal Existential and Rajesh Rajamani’s Inedible India, Chetana wanted to do something similar for her fellow Kannadigas.
Inedible India, which was launched by Rajamani in August this year, was inspired by Royal Existentials that was launched in 2014. Both series of comic strips’ use vintage art, Indian paintings and imagery for political commentary. While Inedible India uses Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings Royal Existential uses art from the Mughal era.
“Apart from wanting to translate Rajamani’s comics in Kannada, I wanted bring out my own series, which would focus on issues that I personally feel strongly about. When I spoke to him, he said there were no copyrights and I could do anything as long as I took up authorship. That is how Inedible India-La was born,” said Chetana.
The core idea behind Royal Existentials and Inedible India ticked all the right boxes for Chetana, who writes columns for Mangaluru-based News Kannada and Bengaluru –based Agni under her sixth pen name Alavikaa La.
Double standards for judging men and women by Inedible India-La
She said:“Firstly, for Inedible India-La, I didn’t have to draw so it is time saving. More importantly using Indian paintings actually added native flavour to the work. It attracts people.”
Inedible India-La comic strips, which are published on Facebook with #Inedible_India_La, are not released periodically. “I write or make comic strips on issues as an when they surface,” she said.
Chetana, who publishes the comic strips under the pen name La (short-form of Alavikaa La), uses both Raja Ravi Varma paintings and vintage art in her comics.
Covering a range of topics from Indian politics to feminism
Dead against inhumane activities, Chetana, who calls herself a liberal, said, “I write out of experience and I am not bound by any socio-cultural thoughts or practices.”
However, she says that be it any form of writing, it can be called authentic only if the writer has personally faced or experienced.
On Dadri lynching by Inedible India-La
“I know what eve-teasing means, what domestic violence is like, how religion curbed the spirit of women and how religion divides people. I have seen all this and these have shaped my ideas,” she added
Issues that Chetana has covered in her comics include Dadri lynching, double-standards for women in Indian society, Hindi as national language, moral policing etc.
Beauty of Indian languages and art
Any Indian, who has widely read works from his/her native written in vernacular, would agree that expression in native language is more powerful and rich than when it is anglicised.
“The beauty of writing in vernacular is the range of words that native Indian languages offer. And this automatically enhances the quality of work,” said Chetana, whose works are all in Kannada.
However, she also agrees that her comics got better and more response than her articles ever got, especially from people who can only comprehend Kannada.
Views on Modi government
Satire and sarcasm are some of the most striking qualities of Chetana’s comic strips. One other quality which is apparent is that Chetana is highly critical about Narendra Modi government.
“I don't agree or support Modi. This was after Godhra. Having observed his moves and political ideologies so far, he seems more like a CEO of India than a Prime Minister. His initiatives are focused on the corporate sector not for the common man,” said Chetana.
Chetana is a part of a group of writers who meet to discuss various issues in the state and country, which apart from helping her write columns also gives her ideas for the comics.
“We have some responsibility when it comes to striking a balance. Though we are budding writers, any statement we make can be very sensitive and they have the potential to create discord. We do have limitations and that is why I feel discussions are integral to any writer who wants to broaden his or her perspective,” she said.