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Since 1st March, 1999
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Plotting pictorial tales

On May 23 and 24 was a rather unique event at British Council as part of the Magic Pencil series ' Dear Diary, a graphic novel workshop held by Sarnath Banerjee, author of India's first graphic novel, Corridor.

Monday's session began sharp at 9 am. There were about 20 people in the waiting list. There were participants from age 15 to 35 and above. Students, professional painters, animators, designers and even teachers were there to create their own graphic story.

Each one had been asked to bring a story or an idea. Some had while some hadn't. After the introductions were discussions. A few written plots and some impromptu vignettes and poems later, a movie, American Splendor, was screened about graphic novel artist Harvey Pekar. It was a mixed genre movie with animation, documentary and conventional film medium fused together for a captivating effect.

Tea and cookies followed. More work was done on individual stories. Some had already sketched their stories. Others were complete, like that of animator Gulzar. Some were asked to start the thinking process since the basic graphic story had been penned. The rest ' who hadn't laid out their ideas ' Sarnath helped along.

Some scribbled and scrawled their way through lunch, oblivious to the clamour created by the chattering groups. The saga of stories being extracted from the minds, examined, moulded into graphic sense and finally put to pictorial effect on paper took almost all of the first day.

Before the afternoon break (most rigorously pencilled away) the comicist (as Sarnath calls himself) projected some of the works of the greatest graphic novelists/graphic artists ' Will Eisner, Tardi, Art Spiegelman and more ' to give us a taste of the different styles and moods of this genre. But the samples were a little 'conservative', considering that some participants were a little young. The workshop, supposed to end at 4 pm, continued beyond 5 pm.

On Day Two, enthusiasm was at an all-time high. No one was late. Sria Chatterjee of La Martiniere was getting help from the organisers to download and print pictures since her story of a girl learning life's lesson through an egg-breaking session needed, according to Sarnath, a different style to keep it from getting monotonous.

Sritama of Kala Bhavan was busy converting her diary extract into a graphic story. 'Very avant garde!' gushed Sarnath. The group of five teachers was trying to create didactic lessons for kids through comic strips without sounding too preachy.

Atreyee, very decisive about her work on problems of travelling in Calcutta autos, quickly reached the stage where she was applying paint to her poster-ish graphics. Alokparna, a painter by profession, was fiddling with her adorable meta-comic strip about the workshop itself.

Poor li'l me was trying to turn her poem, composed during the workshop, into a commendable graphic story/poem, groaning that Sarnath's praises had dwindled since the previous day, probably on account of my juvenile figure sketches.

The day was relentless work. Perspectives, inking, colouring, gutter spaces and more were explained. The session stretched to almost 7 pm. What results came of it was 'better than amateurish efforts', while 'many were of the same standard as professional comics published say in the US' declared Sarnath. He wanted the final drawings to be put up in an exhibition to encourage the participants. He hoped for more such workshops, asking us to contact when in 'graphic' need.

What's on your mind this week

Pope Benedict XVI at a mass: Religion versus technology. (Reuters)

Rape of honour

News or rape is splashed in the media almost every day. But will the victim, who has been devastated by the crime, get any relief from the shame and disgrace she will have to face in society' A new ploy for the perpetrator to escape punishment seems to be to marry the victim. This is what the 24-year-old Bhura, who raped and partly blinded a nurse, thought of doing, but failed. Recently, the gang rape of a young student in Delhi gives rise to the question of whether the police are serious about their duty or whether they regard rape as a minor issue. Morality becomes a question mark. What can be said about a young girl in Patna dragged into a field and brutally gang-raped' Or about a young foreigner violated by an autorickshaw driver' Doesn't man have a conscience anymore, or does it wither away when brutality exceeds humanity' It is even more upsetting when constables turn into rapists. In 2004, about 134 policemen were accused of rape. An ad filmmaker rightly said: 'Sex education should first start with the police force.' Rape is a fundamental act of male domination ' an act of brutality which shatters the honour of a woman and snatches her self-respect. When will this end'

Raffhat Mir


Potter mania

Abracadabra is what all Potter maniacs must be chanting in desperation to grab a copy of the latest book in the series, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince. The heat is on with about a month to go before it hits the stands on July 16. Publishing houses like Bloomsbury of England and Scholastic of America are all banking on the Potter craze, announcing unique plans to promote the book ' Harry Potter calendar to interactive sessions among Potter fan club members. Penguin Books of India also has plans to drive fans into a frenzy. With bookstores and the websites registering record-breaking demands even before its publication, it is a foregone conclusion that Harry Potter fans are going to have a ball.

Godhuli Goswami,
1st year, Lady Brabourne College


Science or sacrilege

Last week was Pope Benedict XVI's sixth week as the Vicar of Christ. His convictions on fertility laws and related technologies that have helped hundreds of childless couples are pretty much the same as the previous pontiffs. He has vetoed all scientific probes into the fruitful field of embryo technology, denouncing it as a 'threat to life and the family'. Intrigued by the grounds on which the Pope stigmatised it as a 'threat', I did a Google search and came up with a Christian doctrine called Donum Vitae. It asserts that life is sacred and therefore the dignity of life is degraded if inception takes place in an environment as unworthy as a laboratory dish. Invitro fertilisation is a 'moral aberration', since it does not involve the spiritual aspect of procreation. If you have seen the movie The Sixth Day, you could guess the third reason ' with such powerful technologies at their disposal, scientists can set themselves up as masters of destiny, which of course is an unthinkable sacrilege by religious standards. But then, life is more precious than religion, and when you think about all the miracles embryo and cloning technologies have achieved or can achieve, you could very well call it manna from heaven.

Chandrika Acharya


Memory lane

On June 1, 2005, we completed a year since our educational tour to Nainital. One year ago, we were all second-year students in the postgraduation course, department of geography, CU. It was a compulsory in our syllabus to prepare a field report on a place. Our professor had decided to make a trip to the picturesque lake city with 20 students specialising in advanced industrial geography. Going with friends is always exciting. It was done in an organised manner, so we could enjoy it to the fullest. We had done a complete survey on Nainital according to the requirements. The rest of the time was free for fun. The bonds of friendship were strengthened. We have completed our course and separated. But till today, I can clearly recall the chatter of excited voices talking together in the hotel room. When I glance through my photo album, tears mist my vision. The scenic beauty of Nainital beckons me. But if I go there in future, it will not be the same without the company of my friends. That's life. We have to go ahead by leaving behind the past. But the essence of that unforgotten memory will always be etched in my mind.

Payel Bhattacharyya



The play Gorur Garir Headlight was performed on May 27 by the theatre group Natasena, and not by CU students, at Campus 2005, annual fest of University of Calcutta Students' Union Central Standing Committee (Party time, Young Metro, June 7).

Arjun Chaudhuri,
1st year MA, Calcutta University


Poets' Corner

Inflicted inferno

It is ghastly ' a wounded place,
The cold-hearted forest wails in despair,
Grandeur and greedy passion has won.
And what lies before is emptiness...
The dusty road smells of blood and pain,
And poaching recurs, it's insane.
Groomed civilisation tears through,
Like a million thorns ' cutting;
Blood streams out, the forest stares,
What is love... who cares'
And yet grandeur laughs out loud,
'We are wealthy, we are proud.'

The shimmering yellow with stripes black,
And of brave life, the eyes do lack.
The flying wings, no sound they make,
The sweet wet noses, no air do they take.
The black buck's legs look so lame,
And all for wealth, and all for fame.
The fur lacks smell of lively glee,
The forest cries out ' 'Flee, now flee!"

Yet the bullets fly free,
Towards the animal behind the tree,
The whisk of a tail, a twitching nose,
It's the heart where the bullet goes.
Then a cry ' a loud wail,
Then at last the heart does fail.
The limp body falls to dust,
And all for wealthy lust.
Or for some cruel heart, that knows no compassion,
To be able to kill in such a fashion.

And so if now I demand,
Humans should stoop to Nature's command!
They deserve no love nor care,
All they do is stand and stare,
They don't protest, nor do they wail,
In Nature's eyes, so they fail.
For once Mother Nature, turn insane,
To avenge all kills and all the pain.

Sheelonee Mukherjee,
Calcutta Girls' High School


...Pages of a lost poet...

Still remember the black night,
With lights out and lips tight,
Kiss of her breath, touch of her sense,
Hypnotised me and broke my mind's fence.
' Then came the realisation,
Of a life mortgaged in a 'polythene pack',
Of a dream stabbed like a cheap fag,
Help me 'coz I'm locked in time's door,
Some people say I'll not live anymore.
I've lost my guitar, and have nothing to give,
Punish me for I'm HIV positive.
The volcano of consciousness slowly fades,
My days are numbered in the page of AIDS'

Archan Bhattacharya,
Class XII, Don Bosco Park Circus

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