Sunday, December 21, 2014

A new year's update - A BIG change

Being a cartoonist in our country is not easy. But its not that difficult too. All you have to do is try.

Its a tight rope walk, which middle class origins make easy. Half your competition is stuck in small town drudgery of day to day life. So even with average talent you can go far. But, like every creative career it takes time.

In 2011, my boss at Comic Con India/Random Magazine/Pop culture publishing told me that he "can destroy my life".

I left that very day.

From then on till August 2014 I worked independently running a one man cartooning and comics shop.

In this time i did many things. Few of them are

Created comics for newslaundry - Something i regret doing because it has changed my world view forever and taken away the ignorant bliss that is quite useful. Stories of poverty death and suffering with a funny twist. whatever you read is 10% of what i read. That's why I am 90% sadder.

You can read the comics here

Commercial work - I created covers for Brunch, did assigments for BBC, some for Webchutney, a strip for Guardian london, line app stickers, some work for wingify an A/B testing firm and some more.

The money i made from this work was quite good, contrary to assumed belief. With this money I did some things that I am proud of -

1. Aaapki Poojita

Exploring an epic concept for animated show within the bounds of a webcomic. It failed but me and Adhiraj exhausted ourselves on it. leaving our man hours apart, we spent some 60k on it. So if you have an idea in your head, don't publish, explore online and you'll truly know - in a low cost form - that if it works.
Level 10 comics helped us develop and do this better.
Read Aaapki Poojita here.

2. Applying to and getting accepted at one of the best art schools in the world

I applied at School of Visual Arts, New York - one of best art schools in the world. I was on the waitlist of 25 they choose from over the world. I didn't make it to the final list. Maybe i am not good enough, maybe they knew i didn't have the 60,000 USD+14,000 USD+ living expenses required.
A good thing I earned out of it was a sweet looking portfolio.
more about this
check the portfolio here.

3. Asked a beautiful girl her permission - to marry

I blew a fortune on the ring, broke my back over an animated film, and then asked the most beautiful woman in the world for her hand in marriage. She agreed.
you can watch the film here.


Adhiraj started this small group, which I titled Adhiraj Comic Kala Samagam to tease him, which blew up into this big group of comic artists. We have published a comic book together and on our way to start a cooperative.
you can join the gang here.

5. Bought a flat in Noida

No I am not joking. My father made sure i don't fly too high and got me to pay for this flat, which will go on till the rest of my life.

6. Lived in a village 

Regular jobs don't give you this chance. So I took it when i could and lived in a village for some time. worked with the farmers and understood some things which nobody can tell you.
read more about it here.

7. Pitched a Khushwant Singh comic

An adaptation of his work which did not impress penguin.
you can read it here.

8. Learnt Thangka art 

I spent a good time learning Thangka art in Dharamsala for an epic fictional comic on Bhutan that I wanted to draw. I went to Bhutan too. that project is 4 chapters done.
Check the trip here
the teaser pages of comic here

9. Videsh - Turkey
Went there to attend a big workshop where comics was a part of it. My first 'abroad' trip. Nice experience. Nicer because it was not your ususal America, Britain. A different world. also because - part paid for, part with my own money.
Pictures here

10. The Itch You Can't Scratch sold off

Majority of the first print run of my first book sold out its first print run of 3000 copies. And on this podcast they told me that it means bestseller in today's publishing market. Also included big fights with the publisher (my ex employer) who tried every dirty trick to kill the book off. It survived on its own merit. The publisher continues to bury the book.

11. My work was stolen
the same publisher/ex employer stole mine and Adhiraj's work and turned it around, and published it. Feels pretty cool to get your work stolen. It is now out as 1% of what it was - ironically called  - payback

12. Grassroot comic 
Just knowing that this exists.

Since Feb 2014 the ground had started shrinking beneath my feet - Newslaundry's ability to pay was reducing, and freelance assignments were drying up.

I could either continue by watering down whatever i wanted to do. Or get a job.

I chose the job.

But in an interesting way - Cartooning is the art of ideating, writing and drawing - so rather than look for a drawing/art/design position (design is not my thing. cant decide why sarif is sans and blah blah) I transitioned to a copy and idea based position - keeping the drawing for myself.

I consolidated all my work and started a webcomic called...


This is a sucide note. I am not killing myself, but this webcomic is to be a repository of all the long form ideas that i wanted to do, but in a shorter form. This is to be a bottle in the sea.

you can read Bakarmax here.

 I have joined MSLGROUP Socialhive - a digital team, in a communications agency as the manager of - wait for it - Planning!

Although advertising, that too digital, is like running a pakora stall at peak hours, I feel relaxed for I don't have to worry about sales, marketing, getting work, meeting people, networking, and worrying about all this even when I am sleeping.
Running your own thing is a different kind of stress.

There's stress here too, but of a different kind.

What I am working on now -

Letting my heart out on Bakarmax

Regular work

Creating a Cooperative with the DCKS group

Starting a scholarship at my alma mater (engineering) for the lost souls

Marrying the pretty woman i've managed to woo

Working on a printed version of my NL comics - first comes out in March.

Turkey trip - GPW2014 - Istanbul and Mugla

Working for the Guardian london

So Sharad sir, who runs the super awesome Grassroot Comics connected me to Ellie at The Guardian who was inviting comics from artists across the world on what it means to be young in their respective countries.

I joined in, and wrote a strip about my pet peeve - the education system.

process -

You can read the comics in nice width here :

They also made a nice looking film with our artwork and coversation

I later found out more details about Guardian and its work ethos, which are quite awesome. And since then I have looked at their reporting differently.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Making stickers for Line app

So some of us artists from the Delhi Comics Kala Samagam group (DICKS for short) took this stall in Comic Con in collaboration with Sharad Sharma sir from Grassroot Comics (World Comics India).

I was selling my posters there, and I was trying to woo customers by saying random things like "free posters for anyone wearing red" - or the kind of random things street hawkers say or the uncle MCs at local residential society functions.

So I called on to this one muscled sardarji "Free posters for any sikh who looks like he could beat me up!" This man came up to the stall to claim his free poster and told us that he was from Line Corp and was looking for cartoonists to design new India themed strickers for them.

I had heard about it, because the gawd-rockstar-artist-emratus-bhagwanji Vaibhav Kumaresh had designed some stickers for them. He shared his visiting card with all of us. I wrote to him as soon as I was home.

They offered money which was quite good, Contract came from Korea within the week and was sent back signed almost immidiately. Then came the realisation - banau kya? Anything I would draw would look a third class photocopy of Vaibhav Bhagwan Kumaresh's work.

So I started off with a small survey among friends to figure out what would appeal to them, and then from that survey and Line Corp's inputs I figured out my basic set of emotions and characters.

and then the characters -

and then I drew all the stickers in a notepad to keep in the mind of the size factor -

And then some rounds of two and fro, cleaning and inking and coloring...

And this is how the final Sticker pack looks: 

Its called Gup Shup

Funniest part of this whole assignment was -

Friday, May 23, 2014

Babu Gosha and the adventure of pitching

So I've been working on this idea of creating a universe with food - a story for children - to make them understand conflict through food items.

Although I worried, and still worry that me being an ex writer for Savita Bhabhi will be something that might lead to me being totally lynched for writing something for children. But still I started developing my idea - even accepting the idea of using a pseudonym - and finally came up with a complete story.

The most interesting character in the story was Babu Gosha - who is not a nashpati, and he really doesn't like it much when people call him that.

Babu Gosha, is a silent meek wannabe in the world of gastronomy. he wants to make it and is ready to go to any lengths to do that...

To develop the character the Babu Gosha further, I started making these one page strips - which I shared on Facebook -

So, after writing a final plot, and making these strips, I decided to tell the story from the perspective of Babu Gosha, but still keep the theme of conflict at the backdrop. 

To make children understand the value of grey in a world where everything is presented to them as black and white.

So I wrote to Turner - Cartoon Network to pitch them the idea as an animated show. Now, there are some nuances to pitching an animated show - the biggest of them is cost - everyone who has pitched an animated show knows that. 
My plus was that the whole show was set against a white backdrop and, only line art - color was to be used as a special effect.

 They were kind enough to reply but they sent in this pitching document - which is the most absurd document I've read so far. It has some terms like - 

Translation: Whatever  you send, if we make similar later, you can't do anything. This clause gives us the right to COPY - legally.

Translation: If you have a problem, sue us in Hong Kong. Bloody Hong Kong. Ha hahaha we know you don't have money to buy a ticket to Bhutan, Hong Kong to rehne hi do! (Also the company has substantial presence in India, I mean they have offices in multiple cities for god sake? do their employees sign similar contracts?)

So I refused, but then I felt like, chalo risk le lete hain, and I went ahead and sent them one of the nicest looking pitches I've made - a nice picture book.

I waited for a few weeks, and then I got this reply :-

Besides bad contracts, another fetish of corporates is to reply (when they choose to) -  in lingo and one lines. No engaging anyone. That is the duty of the PR firms they hire.

Now, refusal is part of the game and I understand that well enough, but some of the people I know, people who are pitching cartoon shows - and have had some success in that regard - have come to accept whatever comes on Cartoon Network India as something that needs to be pitched - basically the same thing I heard long back from some TV executives - they used to call it idiot proofing - to basically make everything clear cut simple - because the  audience is stupid.

The Indian audience, or children for that matter are not stupid. People who make three story houses, marry off their children and take care of extended family on laughable salaries are not stupid. They're just tired.

Anyways, the status quo is set.

I'm still working on the concept, adding details to it, and obviously pitching it again, with really no hope of anyone ever picking it up.

Update: Meanwhile, it seems Turner is developing another religion based show.



(haan yaar, sada hua hoon.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Ending the Newslaundry Historical Comics

Note: This is an unsolicited goodbye. I am no big shot, I have won no award but I worked for sometime on something special and its closing up now. So I feel something is due.

THE RED CORRIDOR part 2 - last of the three part saga on Naxal history has been uploaded on the Newslaundry website. 

This is the last of my historical comics in collaboration with Newslaundry. 

In 2011 I quit my last job at Comic Con India after my boss told me that "He'd destroy me" after I had come in 15 minutes late.

Although  I had put in lot of work for the 2nd year of the con, I still left because slowly the vision for Comic Con India had changed and I did not feel strongly for how it was taking shape.

Another major reason was that I was not allowed to write for external organisations (The Itch You Can't Scratch is published by the same company that organises Comic Con India - in a way they were like my rich husband - publisher/employer)

The first month after I left was very relaxing - like it is after leaving any job that you've done for a long period of time - but the I knew that I did not have a sturdy ground in place (Papa ka petrol pump nahi hai). So I woke up early, kept my 9-5 routine going, and kept looking for work while I started detailing this comic book I was writing for some time.

Slowly I created a portfolio, updated my blog, and found work. 

But I had to find regular work, which came in form of Newslaundry.

In these three years - I read for the first time - complete Indian political history since 1947 - obviously in the form of INDIA AFTER GANDHI - but some parts in more detail than others - specially the parts on which I had to make comics - or I had planned comics - Kashmir, Naxals, North East, Mayawati's rise.

Anandji - a wonderful person who was working with me guided me to more interesting books - I studied the foreign policy of India, some hindi classics and Orwell - I had heard about George Orwell, but Anandji pushed me to read him - and I've not found an author I love more (Maybe Khushwant Singh.) By now I have read almost everything Orwell has written, and finishing the remaining bits at a quick pace.

Swarnabha - an animator and artist at Newslaundry was another guide - and helped me understand some minor details of art - which only a bengali could know.

Another big enjoyment was being called by so many people to meet them, after they liked the comics. These were writers, journalists and business owners.

I have been asked by many people to take these historical comics to another platform - another company - but the only reason I couldn't do it is that I am not the only reason for these comics - I only create a basic 70% of the comic - the 30% of the comic - its final polished form is the result of Abhinandan Sekhri's (editor - newslaundry) inputs and editing. He is not really the most jolly person you would meet - but he knows writing - and working with him has improved my writing so much. He did put in extra effort  - which at time would show - I believe I by far have the record of irritating him the quickest.

All the people at the office were no less. Although I went there two times in a week, and later once a month - everyone was kind to me. Except that one time Ramakantji locked me up in the office for 5 hours.

Other than knowledge these comics have changed something completely inside me - as a middle class family boy, I had a pre conceived notion of where we are at - and how we suffer - and how politicians suck out blood - the usual 90's gangster films.  But working on comics on conflict - made me understand the equation India is. And placing yourself in this equation makes you understand how small you are - it actually takes the whole debate of what's famous and throws it out of the window.

Although new angles to this equation will open soon, but now I understand.

At the age of 25, summing up the Kashmir conflict - will be an achievement I will be the most proud of - mostly because I thought I was incapable of doing so. Also, the fact that I went beyond the written word and got more details out of the verbal history was another exciting fact. Vinayak Razdan has helped in this more than I could thank him for. In the process I explored Kashmir - and after spending some weeks there after my comic - I feel as comfortable in Kashmir as I do in Delhi (Homebase), Calcutta (birthplace) and Amritsar (College).

Working on Naxal conflict was a different ballgame. It is an ongoing conflict so know what's happening, and the fact that I can't do much about it will always pain. Reading the ground realities has taken away the taste of food, or spending a lot on something luxurious, or in simple words IGNORANCE away. I still remember the first few weeks of research on the subject - and how it destroyed my mind - It still is shattered - in a way that nothing really that happens in my life seems that worry some. My trip to Bastar is pending.
Good new is that this of all the comics is the first one to be published.

Among other comics TV ki Kahani is the funniest comic I have written till date.

Why I'm ending this now?

The traffic on all the comics I did - except Kashmir Ki Kahani is around 100,000. For this long a comic this is huge - but the traffic is slowly decreasing. I take that as a sign.

Also, the fact that I am now repeating myself - if you've read the comics you can tell where the reference is going to come. And that's bad for any writer.

Another reason is that design wise I try and make every comic distinct - which I won't be able to beyond this last comic. Because this last comic was done on a shoestring budget - so the design policy was minimal - in colors, in style - to do something interesting but with less money.
And the less money policy was about to continue - and the next comic, and the next after that would look the same, which is unacceptable.

With this work, I did lot of other commercial assignments - which bought in lot of money and personal work - ideas for books, animated shows and comics that never happened.

Ending these historical comics shakes up my whole business - because this was my one regular source of income, so everything is going to change now.

Okay, now I'm not going to die today. (Well if I do, there'd be no regrets) but now a new page is going to turn. Which I have no clue about. It might be really sad and I might just silently vanish from the comics scene, or I might do some new - more interesting work.

I might want to come back to historical comics. There's still a story on North East that's been waiting.

- Sumit

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chinchin - Chacha and Tintin mashup

A long time I had this idea - to add Chacha Chaudhary in all Tintin covers. So I made some roughs

Obviously my skills were not that great back then, So I sat on this and never completed it. Until one day when someone met me after reading my political comics on

This guy mentioned going through my blog and said that he liked this idea, and would love to have a print of the finished piece for his office. Then  I said chalo, complete karte hain.

In the next two weeks I finished them, but with an interesting twist - rather than just placing Chacha plainly in the posters I adapted the comics to an Indian context - thinking of new storylines. Most of these use real instances, stories and events. If you can't tell at the first look, search and you will find more.

The art of Tintin is heavily detailed and adapting these taught me one or two about how to use black objects and shine.


You can buy these prints here

Friday, January 17, 2014

Ardh Vyask Sabu

Ardh Vyask Sabu.
*baaliyan: earrings
*funsi: pimple

Kya karega ardh vyask sabu? kya ardh vyask raka apne notes share karega? kya sabu PTU ka form bharega? dekhiye agli kadi mein

*technically right word for teenager is "kishor" but ardh vyask sounds more fun.

Got around to doing it while scanning a chacha chaudhary comic for a project.
Was trying to use the 4 color printing style, and Pran's drawing style. 

For more on 4 color comics visit -

P.S - I once called Cartoonist Pran trying to convince him, that he should write his autobiography, as a comic. To which he said he started work on some years ago but then stopped because he thought his life won't be that interesting a read. I still asked him if he would want to re start. he asked me if I have anything else to ask.

I still hope he draws his autobiography. If he doesn't I will. His story (pak refugee cartoonist) makes him the Milkha Singh of comics. Draw Pran Draw!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Rahul Ram's brilliant address

A really nice talk by Rahul Ram of Indian Ocean on pretty much all my pet peeves - he talks about the education system, on the sort of troubles you go through when you're simply trying to do what you want to do etc. etc. how he right in the start explains why he'd speak in hindi and english.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Dhanpo - Rural Tourism

P.S - A wonderful person accompanied me on this trip. She remains unnamed.

Last year in August (2013), it had been almost one and a half year since my last chutti. So I decided to take a one month off from work. It was after I had finished Kashmir Ki Kahani - my long comic.

I decided to spend one week in a village in Uttrakhand and spend rest of my time in Kashmir, visiting all the places I had written about.

First I asked a driver from Uttrakhand to find a village, he did find a place for me, but it was quite close to Dehradun, and after searching about it, I really thought it was a small town and not a village. All this searching around wasted quite a few days and I was left with two nights to spend in any village I could find.

I went about searching apne-aap and then I stumbled upon Dhanpo. The only place where Dhanpo exists in the virutal world is this blog page -, other than this Dhanpo does not find mention anywhere else. atleast it did not around the time when I went looking.

The blog was started by a british-indian family that had visited the village many times and were passionate about the village and its people.

I called Mr.Tomar husband of Meena Devi - head of the women's self help group that has bought together the families and have created a community centre and a one room facility there for people like me to come over and stay over. They charge an informal rate, they told me it would be a decent price to say 500 rupees per person per day, in which they would provide food, boarding lodging and complete access to the village and informal treks around the village.

Mr. Tomar : Mobile +91 (0)9411392877

So I got my booking done through Mr.Tomar, and also decided to organise a grassroot comics workshop there with the villagers, for which I did a three hour workshop training with Sharad Sharma, who owns and runs grassroot comics/World Comics India

Once I reached Dehradoon, I headed to Mr.Tomar's one room office/his son's PG, shared by some other boys.

From there it was a roughly 5 hour ride to Dhanpo, with me was Mr.Tomar's son, who is in school.
Mr.Tomar is very frank and friendly, which being from Delhi I am not used to. I was also a bit apprehensive because I could not find Dhanpo anywhere on google maps, no friends from Uttrakhand had heard about it, not even the local people who are from villages surrounding Mussorie and Dehradoon.

I stopped on my way to visit the Forest Research Institute - a big institute made sometime in 1903 or something, and - how the locals now know it - the place where "Student of the year" was filmed.

As soon as we reached Dhanpo, I was a little bit relaxed. and there was Gajendra bhai there, Mr.Tomar's elder son to help with bags and take us through the 3 minute walk to the village. There had been a wedding a day before I arrived, and there was a big swagatam sign just outside the village.

Gajendra bhai is on the right.

I settled into the room, which was decently comfortable with a western bathroom.

They also provide a Kitchen in case you wish to cook your own food.

View from outside

One of the members of the Self Help Group. Did her parents hate her?

Dhanpo is a really small village - some 10 families live there. Almost all of the men work outside the village, many of them are in government jobs like Mr.Tomar's two other sons who are in the CISF. There are farmlands around the village. They mostly produce corn - makki.

The houses are mostly traditional, but people are making new kind of houses there now. the beauty of the old houses are that they invert the seasons - they are warm in winters and cold in summers, however the new cement houses are on the rise. I always wanted to see how an old house looked so I dived right in...

And now, coming to Breakfast -
 I always had my breakfast at Mr.Tomar's house. Prepared by his wife, also the head of the women's SHG.

So, Meenaji, gave me loads of food, chaach, mattha, dahi, makke ki roti, sabzi, white makkhan and what not.

But why that smile, I was wondering, why feed me so much, I had all those Sindbad's seven voyages stories coming to my head when I remembered what I had promised to do the next morning - shat!

It was the sowing season. And I had promised to help out in farms as soon as I reached. 
So, I went along with the others to the farms.

Taking out the adrak from last season

In Dhanpo they do step farming, which looks cute from distances, but what it means is rotating the really heavy plough every 200 meters. Which happens roughly every 30 seconds. That means hawa nikal jana.

I would get tired after every 10 minutes, But the regular farmer bhai here was at it like it didn't mean anything. He starts ploughing at 7 in the morning and goes on till 2 pm and then comes back to the farm again at 3 pm and work on till evening.

Kids love me.
 and women have a weird sense of humor
 the butter-boy

Farming is serious business!

I was close to dead after the routine.

An uncle with his sharpener.

We had our lunch and dinners at the J.P Hotel. a small place at a 5 minute walk from the village.

During tea time, I was at one of the village houses when I found out that the village had been featured for its organic farming.

 And then it was my turn to show off, so I shared the grassroot comics journal with them. and discussed things we would need for the workshop in the evening.


Most of our participants were women, so most of the stories revolved around their routine, which frankly is quite tiresome. best way to talk about it is the comic one of the participants made. We had half the time for the workshop, give the sowing season, still women found time for the workshop.

The workshop gave me immense confidence about the storytelling abilities everyone has, and how excited everyone is when they get a chance to do something very creative. In all the tool of grassroot comics works, and for a professional cartoonist like me, it reminds me to unlearn.

Vijay bhaiya from the farm was also there!

And one of the participants was Tendulkar - the boy Sachin - who just was hanging around all the time,  energetic and silent. Just kept smiling. (in the picture- the one on the left.)

Real heroes of the workshop of was these two people who went on till late in the night finishing their mother/aunt's comic. 

This was the only comic we could manage in a two day, one hour each workshop. 

Next morning we left the village, we went to Dehradoon and I headed for Kashmir from there.
Here's the comic we managed to get finished, made by first time artists and writers.