The Illustrator of Romance and Life: Vikram Nayak
Last week saw the release of two books with totally different themes, yet they shared a common theme. “Ishq Mein Sheher Hona”, is a collection of short stories by Ravish Kumar and the illustrations are by Vikram Nayak. The other book is called “We The people”, a collection of around 80 cartoon illustrations by Vikram Nayak depicting the rural life in India.
Ishq Mein Sheher Hona started in the form of a Facebook page, called Laprek:
“It started as a Chain of Facebook Fiction (Stories) and slowly transformed itself into a collection of stories about romance with Delhi and romance in Delhi.” Vikram Nayak told OWN.
The book is about Delhi and depicts the romance in the city in a montage of a few lines capturing the present in different places across time, accompanied by illustrations.
Ravish started this around 3-4 years ago. In an Interview with Vikram, he said “When I was first approached for the illustration and heard that Ravish has written about Delhi, I had the notion, that it will be something of a socio-political essence. I asked him to send me a few lines through which I can decide how to get along with the illustrations. When I read the lines, they were nothing like I had imagined.”
“They were really intimate and down-to-earth. Something that held me on to it, was the simplicity and the language. It had something with which I could relate to; The College romance, the lanes of Dilli; the secluded spots, which lovers seek. Perhaps, in future, political parties would be adding “Constructing secluded alleys for lovers” in their manifesto” he adds, laughing.
“So I immediately wrote to Ravish, saying this is me! You would find me, outside college campus, trying to talk to my crush or sitting in a bus with my partner’s head on my shoulder, or roaming around idly near the Moolchand flyover having ‘plastic ke cup mein chai (Tea in a plastic cup)’, with ‘maththi’ while reaming about the past and the love of our life. If this isn’t romance then what is?”
“There is a story in the book, in which they explain why the gardener at Lodhi Garden gets morose, during autumn. It says that during autumn, the trees shed leaves and the privacy for the lovebirds, are lost.”
“The book has something that the youth would be able to connect to, and every time they would read it, they would have a fresh new perspective of looking at the same things.”
Tell me something about the sketches in the books.
“In the book, I have tried to capture the time, space and emotions from the past till the present. There are monuments, people reading old novels in trains, yet fresh metro-ride romance. In one of my illustrations, a girl has rested her head on a sten gun. The reason is that in the bus, if either of the partners shows intimacy, the other would feel intimate, yet be conscious of the people staring at them. So he would be as loaded as a gun, ready to fire the question, ‘Kya dekh raha hai? (What are you staring at?)’.
“In another instance, a boy from Bihar falls in love with a Mizo Girl, who sells momos. The way she expresses her love, is to give an extra momo everytime he eats at her stall, while he presents her with ‘Thekua’, a sweet from the Bihari cuisine. To summarize, it captures the Romance Aaj Kal, in Delhi. Which I’m sure the young generation would be able to connect to.”
Who is Vikram Nayak?
There’s something that Nirmala Jain had written, in my introduction, in her book. She had written: “Aap sheher ko banaate ho, par kuch waqt baad, sheher aapko banaata hai (You make the cities, but after a while the city makes you). Hence the names, Dehelvi, Mathura waale, Meerut waale, Lucknow waale, etc.”
Tell me about “We The People”
“As soon as the word ‘cartoon’ flashes before us, images that depict funny faces, hilarious situations and some dialogues that make us smile pop before our eyes. Often cartoons tickle the funny bone and make us laugh and at other times they force us to praise the cartoonist i.e. his imagination and humor. But believe me when I say that while making these cartoons I did not venture into a make believe land nor did I get on the creative high horse, instead my mental state was akin to that of a serious writer – things I saw, observed and felt came alive on the sheets of papers lying before me.”
“In October 2014 while in Dhindori district of Madhya Pradesh I happened to ask a tribal in the village ‘who is the Prime Minister of India?’ he replied deadpan: Jawaharlal Nehru. His limited knowledge can become a source of our laughter but at the same time it raises a serious question – Is he living in the past or have we failed miserably in taking him and his entire society into the twenty first century?
In another instance, I asked a Baiga, ‘why do they keep cows but do not consume the milk given by the animal?’ and he said “the milk of the cows is meant for her babies”, and here I came from the big city to tell them about their rights! I was thinking that in my civilized world the calves are kept away from the cow to prevent them from drinking too much milk and that, the draining of milk from the cow’s udder with machines, for selling, is known as self-employment. Definitely, there is a mind-boggling contrast in their values and ours, in their sensitivities and ours.”
“In my many travels for film shoots, Aandolans and foot marches, wherever I went I felt that some people who have lost their way are trying to convince those on the correct path that there is immense joy in being lost. There is a huge gap in what we want to give them and what they want to receive!”
“I am forced to ask myself – how can these people have fresh air and water as long as we insist on consuming and living by their side? How can they live on so little and still laugh and dance under the open sky? We think that our degrees and exposure entitle us to ‘educate’ these people – to tell them what all is missing from their lives in such prosperous times! We are chopping their forests, polluting their sources of water, snatching the hidden minerals under their soil and then pontificating on their poverty, telling them why they remain so poor and deprived!”
“So then in the book, I simply share my bitter-sweet memories of my interactions with the people of my land which are usually known as tribal.
Often, we all think and then laugh but I would like you to laugh and then think – seriously!
On this note I share one anecdote – During one public hearing a certain minister was recounting the achievements of his government that included a trip to the planet Mars on a very minimal budget, in that same meeting Nanu Baiga was patiently awaiting the minister’s assurance that he would be allowed to live on his land with a minimal budget!” He said smiling with an inward sigh.