Graphic novelist Vishwajyoti Ghosh discusses with writer Indrajit Hazra how cartoons are a great tool for depicting complicated and contradictory historical events

The history that we study in schools and universities is the history of great events and great actors: presidents, wars, empires, revolutions. There is, however, another history — one of those who live and suffer during these major events, the history of women and men fighting the wars, struggling during revolutions. This history is not studied in schools and is a huge heritage that is likely to die with its protagonists. These are experiences often confined in the private sphere, handed down as family stories.

Historical memory, especially that of individuals and their everyday lives, is a collective gear and needs oil and maintenance to keep working. This is what the Delhi-based graphic novelist Vishwajyoti Ghosh is trying to do with his works, “Delhi Calm” and “This Side, That Side: Restorying Partition”.

The first book is set in Delhi, year 1975, when the state of Emergency was declared, and tells the imaginary story of three young friends, how their lives and thoughts are overwhelmed by this event. Sepia tones, strong lines and heavy shadows depict a dark city, full of fear and paranoia where none can be trusted. Fiction is combined with reality: in the cartoons often original propaganda posters and newspapers clippings can be found.

“This Side, That Side: Restorying Partition”, curated by Ghosh, is a collaboration between visual artists and writers and comprise different stories across Pakistan, India and Bangladesh borders about the effect of Partition on the lives of people and their re-elaborated vision.

During a conversation with writer and journalist Indrajit Hazra at the event, Writers Etc., organised by The Alliance Française, Ghosh said that a very important issue, nowadays, “is how we deal with Partition and what is our own experience in a refugee camp.”

Stating that cartoons are easy for readers to relate to, Ghosh commented, “Life is a bit easier if you are doing cartoons. Readers don’t go there and expect anything else but a cartoon.”

The graphic novelist explained that cartoons give him the liberty to move inside these stories, and he uses different styles depending on the stories he wants to tell. Pointing out that drawings can be great allies when it comes to dealing with complicated and contradictory historical events: landscapes, colours, faces and their expressions often reinforce concepts and help the representation of feelings.