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Pangolins, Cartoons, and a Planet to Save

Learning from and learning about Rohan Chakravarty through Green Humour and the animals that will certainly “attack him” if they read his comics.

“I’m often asked what my spirit animal is, and I tell them it’s the Pangolin.” 

Rohan, out birding. Source: Rohan Chakravarty

Who is Rohan Chakravarty?

Rohan Chakravarty is a 36-year-old artist, cartoonist, and environmentalist from Nagpur. Those familiar with his comics also refer to him as an environmental activist, but Rohan himself is against that title. He’s a “wildlife buff” who often describes himself as a pangolin, because of the animal’s tendency to curl up in its protective armour. Despite this, Rohan uses his art as a way to communicate.

“Art comes naturally to people like me who are reclusive and poor in making conversation. That’s one of the reasons why I draw to communicate rather than speaking or writing.” 

He was studying to become a dentist, but upon realizing that dentistry was not his call, Rohan indulged in his childhood dream - working in the animation industry. After working as an animator for 4 years, he then shifted to cartooning, which he’s been doing for 10 years now. Towards the beginning of his cartooning journey, he was volunteering with Kids for Tigers (an initiative by Sanctuary Asia) which is when his “dormant interest in wildlife kicked into action.” After experimenting with a few different themes, he decided to merge his interest in the environment with his cartooning, and this decision has led to some of his best works, including the book ‘Green Humour for a Greying Planet’. 

“If ants decide that they want to end humanity one day, they are very capable of doing so.” 

What impact has Green Humour had on his life? 

While Green Humour explores endangered species and the need for ecological conservation, it also delves extensively into the life of insects and other arthropods, including ants! Ants have captivated Rohan’s interest, and he very sincerely believes that they can rule the world. But what he also shares is that creating comic series’ like ‘Ants Observed’ has increased his awareness and respect for ants and other “little critters that no one pays attention to”. A spider or lizard in his kitchen that he would have once swatted away has now become a staple in his everyday life. He shares a simple example, “These spiders, that we always want to get rid of, are actually really efficient hunters of fruit flies.”


How Rohan pictures himself when he's out birding. Source: Rohan Chakravarty

What this example helped reiterate is that while Green Humour and other comics have been an integral part of his career, they’ve also taught him other ‘life lessons’. He says, “Once you know the role of ants and spiders in your life, you’re going to look at it from a very different point of view.” We learn to accept and appreciate the presence of these creatures who play small but crucial roles in our lives.

“I will be in trouble because I make fun of animals and I use them as scapegoats to create a gag!”

What does it mean to be a cartoonist? 

Even though Rohan believes he will be in serious trouble if the animals he illustrates ever read the comic, they are his way of helping people, especially the youth in urban communities, connect with nature. His comics are a way to make science accessible and fun for everyone, not just scholars. As someone who isn’t from a background in Science himself, he says,

“I think that’s really important for a science communicator of any kind to not be intimidated by science, even if you are not from a science background. It just needs an open mind and a little bit of homework.” 

And that’s what makes him unique. He has taken his passion, a cause that demands action for the future of our planet, and has turned it into thought-provoking comics that could brighten up your day. Today is as good as any day to curl up with a cup of chai and a Rohan Chakravarty comic, and immerse yourself in the nature we continue to lose touch with.

Written by Nandana Thakershy

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

This article was adjudged the 'Best Feature', created in Week 6 of the program.

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