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Sajith Kumar

by Sherif Awad

I come from a middle class family based in the south of India. Had a knack for drawing from the early days of my childhood. But a taste for cartooning, I acquired late in my school days. The state of Kerala, I was born, is still known for its high literacy rate, and it was normal for any child raised in this part of India to be socially and politically aware of his surroundings. Both local and national politics were discussed at our dining table, and reading at least two newspapers was the norm those days. Remember, how we siblings fought for each page of the paper every morning. Then we had great magazines, were these political cartoons were appearing which caught this high school boy’s imagination. My state Kerala has produced the best cartoonists in India. It still does.

- Political Cartoonists are almost an extinct species fighting for their survival in India like it is elsewhere. But the advent of social media has given it a new lease of life, it seems. So, we are making most of it. The media industry, now in India has compromised its position a lot, giving in into the hands of the present dispensation at New Delhi. But I take pride that I work with the best newspaper paper       ( Deccan Herald) in India that has always shown truth to power.

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I was particularly inspired by the work of Cartoonist Ajit Ninan who drew for India Today, a national political weekly. We had great libraries in every nook and corner of the village, that subscribed all good magazines and newspapers. Which came as a boon for a Cartooning enthusiast like me. Then came Tintin comics to get inspired on. But I focused on the art of political cartooning rather than comics. I had this itch to comment on things I felt was politically or morally wrong around me. By the time I left my school I had acquired this moral bend, on what is wrong and what is right, which I think is essential for any political cartoonist.

- Comic books have had an important role in our society. They still have their loyal readers. From international bestsellers, to locally grown heroes and superheroes
had readers engaged. But I doubt the mobile phones have taken away their charm. And video games and the likes have eaten up their market.

Though there were Art colleges that offered degree and master degrees in art,
there weren’t any particular institute that offered courses in cartooning. So, I opted journalism for my post graduation, which I thought would open doors to newspaper industry. And it worked for me.

I started my career in journalism as an illustrator and slowly graduated to be a political cartoonist. It has been a big learning curve. And I think, a political cartoonist gets matured by their experience and exposure to socio-political environment. Every day I had something to learn, and perennially being a student helps.

- I had won some awards in India but I consider, BBC showing my work in their world news programme on the occasion of national election as an important event in my career.

- My only advice to newcomers is be original and be a student always. Keep experimenting and value your readers.

- A graphic novel is what my mind is engaged in now. In addition to creating political cartoons daily for Deccan Herald newspaper.

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