‘Pandemic a huge lesson for govts to redefine idea of development’ (IANS Interview)


From dentistry to animation to promoting environmental issues through illustrations and cartoons, the world has come full circle for Rohan Chakravarty, whose new book “Green Humour for a Greying Planet” (Penguin) has just been published and who fervently hopes the pandemic will come as a “huge lesson” for governments worldwide to redefine their concepts of development.

“Although as a befuddled teenager I strayed into dentistry as my qualification, I realized that drawing cartoons on wildlife was my calling after an encounter with a tigress on a visit to Nagzira Tiger Reserve (in Maharashtra). After a three year stint in the animation industry (2011-2014) which I quite enjoyed, I quit my day job to devote my time entirely towards my series ‘Green Humour’, which by then had started appearing in a few print columns and had also been picked for online syndication by the Universal Press Syndicate.

“I conducted my first solo exhibition in Bangalore in 2014, which luckily was quite successful, and gave me the financial backing to pursue cartooning full-time,” Chakravarty told IANS in an interview.

Some of the illustrations from the book have been used for several projects and campaigns on wildlife awareness and conservation. Chakravarty is also the author of “The Great Indian Nature Trail” (WWF India) and “Bird Business” (BNHS), and has won awards from UNDP, Sanctuary Asia, WWF International, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Publishing Next for his work.

How did the present book come about?

“My comic strip column Green Humour has been running in the print and the web for 11 years now. Although I have been planning a compilation of my published work for a long time, it just never happened somehow. After a few early rejections from publishers, I gave up on the idea for a few years, chasing other creative pursuits. Compiling work that has already been published can be a little dreary for an artist as it is more about curating and less about creating.

“So I think I needed to age a little and slow down before I could get around to it! Finally, after Penguin showed an interest in my pitch, my interest in the endeavour was revived again last year, and with age on my side this time, along with a fabulous curation and designing team from Penguin, “Green Humour for a Greying Planet” could finally happen,” Chakravarty explained.

To this end, the book is a curation of gag cartoons and comic strips based entirely on wildlife and nature, perhaps the first of its kind. At a time when global warming, wildlife crimes and man-animal conflicts are at their worst, the book is sure to provide its readers some much needed comic relief. A comprehensive and satirical take on various aspects of the natural world and the threats to its conservation, this book will appeal to both the scientifically inclined readers as well as the general readers.

“The research that went into the book varies from cartoon to cartoon. While some have been inspired by personal sightings of wildlife, others have resulted from long hours of reading both popular writing and scientific research,” Chakravarty elaborated.

Much has been written about the impact of the Covid pandemic on the future direction of the struggle against climate change. What’s his take on this?

“I personally feel that the pandemic has come as a huge lesson for governments around the world to redefine the idea of development. The blaring question it now poses is: Is development at the cost of the environment or public health development at all? Fortunately for some countries, their governments are making the effort to unlearn and learn. India has not been so lucky,” he lamented.

What’s next? What’s his next project?

“Among the most exciting projects lined up for this year are an illustrated urban biodiversity map of my current hometown, Hyderabad; a set of 45 endangered shark and rays that I am illustrating for a team of marine biologists and communicators at the Save Our Seas Foundation in South Africa, and another book with Penguin, which is a series of detective comic stories based in nature,” Chakravarty concluded.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be reached at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)