Amruta Patil could be describing herself in the opening lines of the comic strip she created for us: “Aditi had the kind of unblinking stare and intensity that can be funny, daunting or exhausting, depending on your emotional weather report.” But don’t go too far with comparisons. “You can’t remove yourself from your writing,” 29-year-old Patil explains, on a drizzly afternoon in Panjim, Goa. “You’re distilling the world through you, but you can’t concentrate just on me, me, me.”
There is an introspective, searching quality in her eyes and voice as she talks, and that quality is mirrored and intensified in her work. Author and artist of the acclaimed graphic novel Kari (2007), Patil’s artistry is, as our Cult Fiction columnist dubs it, “the most original comic strip work I’ve seen in India”.
She misses the heavy monsoons of her childhood. Photograph: Zackary Canepari/Mint
Patil was slightly hesitant to sign up for our Independence Day project because she didn’t think she would have the time to spare. She’s spending the summer in Goa, where she grew up. Her days are spent motoring around town on her mom’s scooter, researching for her next book—one with more prose than pictures.
She has a strict timetable to stick to, since she leaves for France in five months. She’ll spend a year there at a writer’s workshop, working on a graphic novel based on the Mahabharat. And, in the middle of all this, Patil still somehow makes time to co-edit Mindfields, a quarterly journal about alternative ideas for education in India. She became involved with the magazine partly because of the low levels of motivation she saw in teachers during the two years she herself taught in Bangalore.
Patil says she’s “very deeply interested in history” and calls herself an “ancient history fiend” on her website. She thinks too many people are disdainful of their historical origins and in the mad dash towards lucrative careers, forget to study it. She is drawn specifically to myths, because she believes that they are a window to the past. “Myth works. The reason people don’t relate (to the past) is because they don’t relate to the emotions of people (in the past).”
For our issue, though, Patil turned to recent history. She says that Independence Day and the days leading up to it drum up a fake sense of patriotism that no one feels during the rest of the year. “I’m supposed to give in to this immense patriotism and gratitude for x, y and z,” she says. She decided to examine people in present day Goa struggling with the question of why it is so hard to feel that sense of patriotism they’re supposed to be feeling on that day.
Up there: Patil zips around Goa on her mom’s scooter, thinking of ideas and researching her next book. Photograph: Zackary Canepari/Mint
Read: Freedom to what (A comic strip by Amruta Patil)
Completed in one long “burst” over a single night of work, Patil’s comic strip follows Aditi, as she prepares for a flag-hoisting ceremony, and various other characters who may or may not join in the festivities.
Her writing is playful, teasing the reader with sly asides. The drawings are whimsical, original and precise. And the overall effect has the same intensity as Aditi’s stare.
Delhi-based writer and illustrator Amruta Patil writes for the blog umbilical at www.umbilical.co.in