Among all the news snippets, columns, editorials, features and images lies the daily cartoon. It’s mostly a sharp, observant commentary on a current trending topic. It takes a keen sense of observation, knowledge of daily affairs, ready wit and oftentimes, courage, to produce a pertinent sketch. Right from R.K. Laxman, Bal Thackeray, Hemant Morparia to Satish Acharya, India has produced a spate of cartoonists par excellence. Their work has been condemned and accused of toeing the line more than once, but they seek to provide a mirror to the idiosyncrasies of society. A few of our favourites.
As with everything else in our country, cartoons come not without controversy. A hue and cry was raised when Aseem Trivedi made that Satyameva Jayate sketch. Open magazine’s Devil’s Choice cover illustration created quite a stir. Amongst all these men stands Kanika Mishra. Her cartoons gained popularity when she decided to take a stand against Asaram Bapu and his acts of sexual misconduct against women. Threatened, abused and subjected to violence, not once did she buckle under pressure and churned out sketch after sketch supporting women. Her resilience paid off. She shared the Cartoonists Rights Network International’s Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning with Palestinian cartoonist Majda Shaheen on October 11.
Q&A with Kanika Mishra
1. Why cartoons? It could have been any other art form…
“I think cartooning is the best art form to make a powerful, strong comment on an incident in a humorous way. Besides that, it is my passion. I can express my views better with my drawings than anything else.”
2. Where does the name ‘Karnika Kahen’ come from?
“I wanted to express my views on the increasing crime rate against women and decided to come up with a female character. Karnika Kahen is the voice of any woman/girl who speaks what is in her mind, without fear.”
3. What has been the biggest challenge of being an activist through the medium of cartoons?
“People in India have no tolerance; they get offended very easily. Nobody likes it when something is said against their religious or political beliefs. It is the job of cartoonist to state facts. So, whenever I make a cartoon, a bunch of people get hurt. It creates a lot of pressure. Being true to yourself and self-censorship are the biggest challenges.”
4. How does it feel that an organisation like the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) has recognised your efforts?
“It feels great! I am at San Francisco right now for the award ceremony, attending The Association of American Editorial Cartoonist convention and meeting with friends from CRNI. These people are doing a great job, protecting the rights of freedom of speech of cartoonists all over the world.”
5. What’s the best part about your work?
“It gives me great creative satisfaction. Otherwise, I feel suffocated.”
6. What would be your advice to others following the same route?
“Follow your heart, be true to yourself and express what is there inside.”
7. As a feminist, what are your views on the position/status of women in our country?
“I think we need to work a lot on that. Things may have improved in big cities but in the interiors, we still face the old mindset, which is against the equality of both genders. But more than anything else, women need to stand for themselves. Only then, real change will happen.”