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March 14, 2016

Meet Verve’s Storyteller of the Year: Malik Sajad

Text by Natasha Sahjwani

Cartoonist and graphic novelist, Malik Sajad, talks about being the first-ever Verve Storyteller and his novel Munnu – A Boy from Kashmir

Being the son of an artisan, it’s no surprise that the 27-year-old graphic novelist picked up a knack for art at a very early age. Deeply fascinated by his fractured homeland, Malik painted a vivid picture in his latest novel, Munnu – A Boy From Kashmir. Drawing closely from his personal experience of growing up in Indian-administered Kashmir, the book journeys through the central character’s transformation from Munnu to Sajad.

Winner of the first-ever ‘Verve Storytellers’, Malik Sajad speaks to us about this creative journey…

1. What was the reason you thought Munnu’s story had to be told?
“I wanted to tell the story of Munnu in a way one shares it with a friend. So many words are written about a region to prove a point – belittling human experiences and focusing more on the assumed statistics, facts or information, differences and stereotypes. I have witnessed that such attempts only polarise a community. I wanted to tell the story of the people. I wanted to create a cinematic experience, place the reader in Munnu’s position and let the reader feel and interpret for themselves the force of circumstances that sometimes, defines us.”

2. Your favourite graphic novels and novelists?
“Some of my favorite graphic novelists are Matt Freedman, Debbie Drechsler, Art Spiegelman. However, not a single word in Munnu was possible without the inspiration from Sadat Hassan Manto, Milan Kundera, Gunter Grass, Mahmoud Darwish and Jack London.”

3. How does a graphic novel reach out to a reader differently from a written novel?
“Both visuals and text play an important role when we talk about the complex stories. Visuals help you curate the information and portray the active elements and simultaneously focus on human conditions. Furthermore, by keeping the description short you leave enough room for the reader to interpret it – their own imagination and memory become the vocabulary and description in the story.”

4. What did you hope readers would take away from the book?
“I tried to write and draw Munnu, so that readers can know him like they know a person close to them.”

5. Thoughts on winning the ‘Verve Storytellers’ book award?
“I am incredibly delighted. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude towards my editor, Georgia Mason. I also thank those who short-listed Munnu along with the people who voted for it.”

‘Verve Storytellers’ is our first-ever book award, highlighting the best in Indian storytelling. The award was curated by Verve’s editorial team and the Indian Quarterly’s Madhu Jain. The winner of ‘Verve Storytellers (2016)’ received a special award and a Montegrappa Paraola fountain pen. The runner-up, Raghu Karnad received vouchers from Amazon.in. 

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