Comics in Times of Change and Multiplicities

Picture this: You walk into the intricate lanes of Old Delhi, Ghalib’s muse. Reminiscing the past while being surrounded by dilapidating architectural heritage, you pave way through cycle-rickshaw jams and come across good old McDonalds!  Not only are they offering special burgers to cater to Indian culinary desires, but also a splendid contextual innovation:  In the paranoia of constricted streets and traffic woes, they deliver on bicycle.

Welcome to the world of cultural montage, the juxtaposition of past with new, of micro with universal, of global and local, a world of change.  Speaking of change, when Haraclitus wondered that “All entities move and nothing remains still” 1 could he have foreseen internet and modern means of transport?

We live in times of cultural osmosis, where differences which could have been caused by time and space have begun to diminish. There are markets and media which attempt at redefining for us images of ourselves and the world we ought to live in. However, despite apparent attempts at homogenization in lifestyle, the core particularities survive, at times they grow stark. To represent a culture is to use the particular “signs and symbols” which would “signify”2 that culture or society, or perhaps an aspect of it. The question is, what exactly are we trying to represent? Is our aim to show the world as it is, or are we deliberately regressing to the point of presenting a stereotypical perception which I fear might not be true or as relevant anymore? Is there really any one way of looking at anything?

A.K. Ramanujan’s “Is there an Indian Way of Thinking? An Informal Essay” 3 and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, both remind the reader of the possibility of multiplicities, of hybridizations, of at times noise. In the domain of comics, is the contemporary Patachitra art representing Tsunami or highways, my identity? Or is a stereotypical India of snake charmers and women walking in some incomprehensible adaptation of the Greek Toga, my identity? I thought of refraining from mentioning those, but as a victim of habit, can I please proclaim that photoshopped revamped images of mythological characters and various Gods is definitely not my identity! Who am I? How am I reflected in comics?

In a scenario where everyone is trying to relocate the receiver to some experience or the other, whether a museum or theme parks, a movie or a comic, what is the role of a deeper understanding and empathy?  How does one avoid personal biases and perceptions to seep into a representation? What role can researchers play? What role can the medium itself play as a valid documentation of change?

An interesting usage of comics: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/Story/1260/Kushinagar.html

Works cited:

  1. Celentano, L., Platone. Cratilo. Introduzione e commento. Napoli 1968, 17‐22
  2. Barthes, Roland.Elements of Semiology, 1964, publ. Hill and Wang, 1968.
  3. Ramanujan, A.K. Is there an Indian Way of Thinking? An Informal Essay. Contributions to Indian Sociology, Sage Publications, 1968; 23; 41

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