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Drawing Attention

Please don’t use the word doodle,” says Parismita Singh. I nod seriously. The D-word would undermine what the 29-year-old has achieved in her graphic novel...

Written by Anushreemajumdar |
May 11, 2009 2:54:58 am

Parismita Singh rustles up folk narratives of the Northeast in black-and-white panels

Please don’t use the word doodle,” says Parismita Singh. I nod seriously. The D-word would undermine what the 29-year-old has achieved in her graphic novel,The Hotel at the End of the World (Penguin,Rs 350). Singh’s hotel,located deep in the Northeast,is shaken out of its rain-soaked slumber when two travellers stop one night and narrate how they attempted to get to China. After the tale,the owners,Pema and her husband,share their own stories,with a little help from a blind hermit and a little orphan girl. In Singh’s stark black-and-white panels,the stories come alive as she plows Assamese folk narratives,Buddhist art and her own memories of her grandmother’s tales.

Growing up in Biswanathchariali,a small town six hours from Guwahati,Singh was greatly influenced by her grandmother Durgamoni Saikia,to whom the book is dedicated. “She would tell the usual animal tales but then go on to include family members and historical events as well,with heaps of masala and several asides. I picked up the characters from those folk tales but have told a new story about them,in my own way,” says Singh,who decided to become a comic-book artist after stumbling on Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.

Currently working with the NGO Pratham,Singh juggles her day job with her graphic journeys. “After Kari by Amruta Patil,mine is possibly the second graphic novel by an Indian woman,but our work and storytelling are completely different. I wouldn’t call my book a graphic novel,though,it is too boring a term for such an exciting medium,” says Singh,who began her book over three years ago and is hoping that in spite of her reservations of how the book is labelled,it should sell. “I consider myself a storyteller,people should enjoy the stories.”

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