Ten-year-old Pugloo runs around the house, announcing “It’s my birthday.” At his party later in the day, his grandmother hands him a gift from his late grandfather. He tears open the big package but is disappointed at the sight of a book. The book, on Indian laws and rights, eventually becomes a fun learning tool for the boy. Pugloo is the central character of Lawtoons, a book by Ahmedabad-based sisters Kanan and Kelly Dhru, self-published earlier this month.
Presented in the form of a comic book, Lawtoons trails naughty Pugloo’s adventures as he learns about the Indian constitution with the help of judge-cum-genie Judgni, who appears frequently to talk to him about his rights. “Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of justice. To nurture a healthy society, people need to understand their rights,” says Kanan, who studied law at the London School of Economics.
The sisters believe that the civic curriculum in most schools is such that children perceive the subject as dull, which results in a society unaware of its laws. So when Kanan started practising in the high court upon her return from London, she launched a think-tank, Research Foundation for Governance in India, for organising public debates and conducting research on the legal system. Through the foundation, she and her sister Kelly, also a lawyer, would hold interactive presentations about rights and laws in schools. But they realised they were only reaching a handful of students. So last year, they came up with the idea of a cartoon book on laws. “Storytelling as a medium, with visuals, is always engaging for children and we thought a fun handbook would have a better reach,” says Kelly.
The sisters developed a prototype, which worked with students across various socio-economic backgrounds. They then roped in an artist from the National School of Design for the book’s illustration. In March, the duo set up a crowdfunding initiative for the first volume of the book on Wishberry, and managed to raise nearly Rs 2.75 lakh by June.
The 32-page Lawtoons touches upon the right to equality and the freedom of expression. In this edition, as Pugloo expresses joy at learning his rights, he tells Judgni that he doesn’t like his friend Bozi’s singing, only to be informed that he cannot object to it unless it is harming him. The lesson stays with him at another juncture when a noisy circus pitches a tent near his house and keeps him up at night.
“We tend to take for granted the pace at which we understand legal terms, so we consulted child psychologists and children’s writers for the development of the story,” says Kelly. The duo also spoke to legal academicians and judges to ensure the idea of law wasn’t getting trivialised. With the first volume out, the sisters are planning more editions to cover other fundamental rights. “We also want to increase the interactivity on the website and develop mobile apps,” says Kelly.