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“Art is for reclusive people like me”: A Cartoonist Shares His Journey Grappling with Comics

Rohan Chakravarty, creator of the “Green Humour” comics, tells us why he chose to convey serious ecological concerns through art and wit. 

The first time I laid my eyes on Green Humour (as a return gift from a friend), I fell in love with it. It was the best interpretation of environmental issues and wildlife conservation I had ever explored. And, believe it or not, I got a chance to interview the very person who had designed these comic books- Rohan Chakravarty. 

“Art comes naturally to reclusive people, like me,” says Rohan. It was a Zoom interview, and with multiple students in the room, we all took turns asking our questions and hearing Rohan’s genuine and honest answers. “It is the alternative form of communication for introverts to express themselves freely, which is one of the reasons I draw rather than speaking or writing.”

Rohan also talks about his past careers and how they affected him.

“Sometimes, parents come to me asking for career guidance for their children, and I keep telling them that I’m the worst person to ask from. I used to be a dentist, but I sucked at it. I then got into drawing, and I wasn’t able to fix on a particular topic to draw about, and I was switching between Bollywood, films, etc.” 

“I am extremely passionate about ecology, so one fine day, I decided to combine art and humour with the environment and climate change, which is how Green Humour started. I was initially also an ambassador for Nagpur at the Kids for Tigers program, and I knew I wanted to do more.”

As Rohan progresses in his field, a challenge that he struggles with every day is trying to strike a balance between humour and conveying serious issues through his work. “So, as an artist, I feel that I have the liberty to go out there and express myself as much as I can, but at the same time, I also have a huge responsibility to convey and spread correct and meaningful information about science and ecology.”

Rohan talks about how he has faced criticism for that as well. “There have been cases where adults have come to me and have told me that I have made an error in my comics or I’ve portrayed something controversial. And I’m okay with that. Humans make mistakes.”

“Ants can rule the world”

Green Humour is the first series of comics from India to be distributed internationally by a major syndicate (Universal Press’ ‘Gocomics’) and appears periodically in wildlife magazines and newspapers. It has won awards from the UNDP, Sanctuary Asia, WWF International, Royal Bank of Scotland and the Green Literature Festival. Cartoons from Green Humour have been displayed at COP26 and COP27. 

As well as making a mark in the ecological sector, Rohan has also been improving and impacting the mindsets of his younger audience.

“I had written a book called Naturalist Ruddy, and it was about a mongoose detective who would treat problems with nature as crime scenes, and try to solve them. Art is a form which clicks with younger readers, especially from an urban background. This is because they have problems connecting with their environment, as it is so absent from their lives. When you look at nature as a problem to solve, it really increases the level of engagement with nature.”

“Through stories like these, I would like everyone to know what the existence of an ant and a spider means to them and how profoundly connected they are with their own lives.”

Rohan also connects the experiences of his audience to his own point of view. “Ants….rule this world. We exist because of ants. If ants want to end humanity one day, they have the power and capability to do so! I am fascinated by these small creatures that no one pays attention to. I’ve been trying to delve deeper into areas of nature which are invisible to most, and I want to focus on that for the next few months. Everyone can draw about tigers, and a lot of communication is being done on their end. These small critters have grown to be way more important than more glamorous animals.”

“And that jumping spider in my kitchen? Ten years ago I would have just swatted it away with a broom and probably killed it, but now I know that it's the reason my fruits aren’t decomposed and rotten.”

The Bigger Picture 

Rohan’s comics have created a considerable effect on his readers and even himself and his opinions. But, what does he further plan to do, and what advice does he give his audience?

“I feel that conservation isn’t something that one individual person has to go out and do”, Rohan says on minimalist conservation techniques one can apply in their daily routine, “but which requires a deeper conscience to set in. It’s not really our fault that conservation’s not happening, and it could be because of much larger issues. Again, it comes back to misgovernance and corporations controlling what we do everyday.”

“However, what you can really do is involve yourself. Maybe a simple act of having a conversation with your loved ones about changes in the climate or appreciating places like your city park. Also, kids who read my books ask their parents questions which they might not know the answers to, which is when they ask me some questions. This allows us to have a vibrant discussion on these topics. Spending more time invested in nature might be all we need to do to improve our situation.”

Rohan has made it pretty clear that he wishes to bring in an extremely strong new perspective about our environment. But, when it comes to his goals, he decides to take it slow. “I honestly have no idea what I really want to achieve in the next few years. If I approached work like that, I would already be so bored with my job. I want to enjoy whatever’s in hand and do complete justice to it. Sure, I want to pay more attention to my work instead of ‘churning’ it out, and focus on quality instead of quantity.”

Rohan also talks about his new release later this year. “It’s an analogy of the gag strips I’ve created in the past few months and it’s something I’m very proud of!”

So, what did you take away from this piece? Did you feel inspired by Rohan’s creative take on his work and the environment around him? Or did you, yourself, slightly change your perspective about your own surroundings, learning to give in to the smallest things that sometimes turn invisible in the hustle-bustle of daily life? Remember, they are of extreme importance, and ensure our ecosystem runs smoothly. And, let’s pray for a moment to the ants who have conveniently decided not to destroy humanity :)

Written by Vaidehi Pant

Vaidehi wrote this article as a participant of the Media-Makers Fellowship's April'24 cohort.

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