Comic book sheds light on untold stories of trafficking, poverty and prejudice in India

Fri Jun 10, 2016 9:07am EDT
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By Anuradha Nagaraj

CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Once upon a time in India, there was a girl who was promised a job and a better future but sold instead as a bride to a family thousands of miles away from where she lived.

With a dearth of young women in the village, she entered a world where abductions, forced marriages and enslavement were acceptable methods of propagating family trees.

And her story is fact, not fiction. It is part of a new anthology of graphic non-fiction that has brought together over two dozen Indian writers, artists and illustrators to tell such stories of life in India through comics.

"The medium of comics is fantastic for this. It allows readers to engage with characters, locations and circumstances, as if they were doing it first hand," said Vidyun Sabhaney, one of the editors of the anthology, First Hand.

Citing the example of Maus (Art Spiegelman), Palestine (Joe Sacco), Barefoot Gen (Keiji Nakazawa) and Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi), Sabhaney wrote in the preface, "These books have been startlingly radical for readers not just because of the medium that they use but the stories that they chose to tell."

The project that began two years ago focuses on stories about migration and trafficking, poverty, caste and LGBT discrimination and the impact of environmental damage that often go unreported.

One powerful narrative in the book is about the young girl trafficked and sold as a bride.

"In a trafficking situation graphic illustrations are all the more useful to give the reader a sense of the remote places people are trafficked from - with a different language, culture and practices - to the final destination which is completely unfamiliar and traumatizing," Neha Dixit, author of the story 'Girl Not from Madras', told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.   Continued...