One of the books that has a permanent place on my bedside table is Vishwajyoti Ghosh’s Delhi Calm. This graphic novel is one I have enjoyed again and again. And have recommended to very many people.
Imagine waking up one morning to learn that all your rights as a citizen are suspended this moment onwards. Imagine living the way the State tells you to—being told how, where and when to laugh, live or love. Imagine constant surveillance—all your acts, words, thoughts watched, all forms of expression subverted for the purpose of nation-building. ‘Work More, Talk Less’, yell microphones as you walk down the streets… But do not worry—Delhi is still calm. It is the India of the mid-1970s. This is the story of three young men with vastly different perspectives, but all dreaming of ‘change’, whose paths cross during this time.
Vishwajyoti Ghosh is also the author of Times, New Roman and Countrymen a visual book of postcards. He also has a weekly cartoon column in The Hindustan Times every Sunday called Full Toss,. He is currently editing Restorying Partition- a graphic anthology with narratives from India, Pakistan & Bangladesh.
To see that glint in your eyes-dear editor or the reader. That glint tells me that yes you got it, it worked for you, you liked it. Yes the page wasn’t incomprehensible or stupid. It was worth the effort!
That soaring into heaven moment also came when my editor asked me what was the book about-I told her in one line (I know these pitches well) and it was sealed. The book was on.
‘Damn, I worked so hard, staying up nights working on the pages, have a look at least.’
‘Ya sure, let’s have a coffee first’
That infernal fire time:
Usually happens twice. Once I’ve cracked the final style-the drawing, the layout. That’s a post-eureka moment. Everything must happen from here…
And after one’s warmed up with 50 pages done. Then it could go either way- compliment yourself for the great work done, all smug and cosy or else light up! Hopefully the latter. I wish I had a thousand hands (ambidextrous plus) so that I could finish the rest 200 tonight. But yes, it’s now!
This story must be told, more research, more layers, more and more drawings. Till then no French Open, no Euro, no cricket.
The purgatory point:
Haha…Delhi Calm stayed in my head for 8 years and was completed in less than 2. The years of characters coming, going, disappearing in your head for so many years. Every day, weekend pregnant with guilt of not getting to the drawing board is immense. But am glad it happened when it happened because I was finally in a state to make it happen.
And then the purgatory point that every writer must’ve talked about. The longggggg silence from the other side. The MS submitted, the publisher never calls, never replies to sms and then sit-up there comes a mail. ‘Thanks, we’ll get back to you shortly’. Doubt, if I would’ve done it differently.
Years, drafts and illustrations/words thereafter, would you do this differently and again?
Uhhmmmm…Not really for most of it. We usually tell our stories the way we want to at that point. Redoing is like replaying the footage and dubbing it with a completely different audio track. If I have to do it differently it will be in the next story. Definitely not in the last one.
What does Vishwajyoti Ghosh the writer
Fear the most?
To do just one kind of thing and that too the same way again-and-again. Death. I’ve friends who tell me “When I saw that work, I knew it was yours. typically your style!” I smile politely. Honestly, I still haven’t found what I am looking for.
Desire the most?
To do graphic narratives on all that interests me, to fit the medium in every universe moving in my head (but then this medium is so time consuming).
To see my books in the railway station or the bus stops along with weight loss or self-help stuff. And most importantly I will not shy away from the desire to see my work in other languages especially Hindi.
Hate the most?
Reading a lazy narrative-feel cheated. Similarly with a bad drawing-now don’t pass it off as art or cover it up with some superfluous, incomprehensible text that makes no sense but covers your ass (or just about it).