Drawing the Line – (ed.) Priya Kuriyan, Larissa Bertonasco & Ludmilla Bartscht



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Drawing the Line - (ed.) Priya Kuriyan, Larissa Bertonasco & Ludmilla Bartscht

In the aftermath of the Nirbhaya incident, somewhere amidst the uproar created by victim-blaming politicians and sensational news that was served aplenty in all channels and media, there was a mutation in the DNA of the country – a mutation, that triggered a spirit of fighting back, in the attitude of the general public towards incidents of rape.

It is this spirit that is reflected in Zubaan’s latest offering – an anthology of feminist visual art — Drawing the Line. Edited by our very own Priya Kuriyan, who has illustrated several books, and the German illustrators and co-editors of Spring, Larissa Bertonasco and Ludmilla Bartscht.

Fourteen Indian women illustrators have visually given expression to their thoughts on feminism. Some are intense and disturbing, some are gentle teasers to big issues, while some others are light takes on serious problems.

+ + + – – –  &  . . .

It requires a keen eye and an artistic mind to appreciate art. In that sense, I may not be the best qualified person to review these works of art. But, here is my perspective, that of a layman.

The Walk by Deepani Seth is a woman’s typical day, her work, the people she meets, the spaces that she shares and the spaces that she loses. Is there a point that Ms. Seth is putting across? If so, I missed it completely.

Priyanka Kumar’s wordless Ever After shows what happens to a woman ever after is not anything alike the clichéd “happily ever after”, but quite the opposite. How thoughts and boredom engulf a woman and become demons that she cannot escape. It is true that boredom is an issue that lots of women face, but I would never sympathise with this as an issue – I strongly believe that this is one issue that a woman (or man) can deal with, if she/he wants to. Definitely not a woman-centric problem.

The Poet, Sharmila describes the author Ita Mehrotra’s meeting with the activist Irom Sharmila and the impressions that she brought back with her. A mini biography of Sharmila with a parallel drawn between a woman’s life in Manipur and another woman’s life in Delhi.

Samidha Gunjal imagines that Someday, a girl who faces sexual harassment might explode and become Kali. The truth is that everyday, somewhere or the other, girls do explode.

That’s Not Fair by Harini Kannan explores the question that every Indian family, especially South Indian (in her own words) comes up with, when a baby girl is born. Is it  fair to question her dark complexion? Darkness is not an asset, but a liability in terms of the dowry that one has to be prepared for. It is the story of an anxious dark-complexioned mother trying her best to ensure that her yet unborn daughter will be born fair, all in vain. Bhavana Singh’s Inner Beauty and Melanin is another take on the fairness obsession with cheeky sideswipes against the advertisements of fairness products. Hmmm.. Not a pressing issue, but an issue nevertheless.

Broken Lines is a product of the research that Vidyun Sabhaney did into the Pata Chitra tradition of Bengal, where she read about a woman’s fingers being mutilated to appease the family’s cows. She expresses her troubled self when she continuously reads about such unresolved violence against women – be it mythological narratives or a contemporary real crime. I could identify with the author’s angst created by the didactic tone and punishments meted out to women in the ancient scriptures, which are supposed to be the guiding lights for us. Definitely disturbing.

Hemavathy Guha’s Asha, Now touches upon the unexpressed shame and the curbed voice behind sexual abuse within family. An emphatic tale of how a victim of incest rarely gets justice and how it scars her for life, it reminds me of Ranjit Lal’s Smitten which also deals with the same topic.

Reshu Singh’s The Photo is the story of Bena, of marriageable age, who doesn’t want to marry and is scared of losing her identity. Reshu Singh has focussed on the pressure that a girl’s family puts on a girl to get married, the supporting arguments and the eventual transformation of the girl into another superheroic mother who uses the same pressure and arguments on her daughter.

Soumya Menon’s An Ideal Girl is a series of comparative educational charts of an ideal boy and an ideal girl. It is an apparently flippant portrayal of a serious issue – the stereotype of the ideal girl — that hides beneath it an intensity. I am quite convinced that most women in this country might identify oneself in one or more of these characteristics of an ideal girl. Strong ideation and portrayal by Ms. Menon.

Prasanna Aryan Prayan’s Pennezhuthu in Malayalam has been provided a visual retelling by her daughter Neelima P. Aryan in The Prey. Scary in its depiction of a vulture-like ruffian lying in waiting for his prey, this story brings out the true fighting spirit that the tagline “Indian women fight back” outlines – where the modern girl lays her trap to capture and destroy the predator, refusing to be a victim anymore. Suspenseful and unpredictable.

Diti Mistry’s Mumbai Local, is the admirable story of how one incident transforms an outsider, detached from the goings-on in the local train, into a part of the sisterhood – a story of acceptance and one that serves well to remind us of the spirit of Mumbai. Yes, Mumbai can be both, extremely unforgiving and extremely charitable. It is a true portrait of the power that is Mumbai women.

Angela Ferrao raises the question that any woman who has ever attended a job interview would vouch for. Ladies Please Excuse tells what women have experienced in jobs and job interviews. From personal questions in interviews to unhygienic spaces in workplaces, she has to fight for basic rights and facilities as she dreams on to become a CEO! Just a scan, but a veritable one, of the issues that a career woman faces.

Hahaha! Lastly, but definitely in a humorous, yet sensuous way, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan’s Drawing the Line explores how women adopt various behaviour patterns to protect themselves. Her imagination also takes her to a world without boundaries. Particularly, after a series of very serious and depressing pictures, this ones gives the reader some respite and lightens the mood. A humorous fight!

Some despair & some hope!


A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Zubaan in return for an honest review. Thanks Zubaan and Ad Astra Comix.

Book Details:

Title Drawing the Line - Indian Women Fight Back
Amazon Hardcover
Flipkart Hardcover
Editor(s)/Author(s)/Illustrator(s)/Translator(s) Angela Ferrao, Bhavana Singh, Deepani Seth, Diti Mistry, Harini Kannan, Hemavathy Guha, Ita Mehrotra, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan, Larissa Bertonasco, Ludmilla Bartscht, Neelima P. Aryan, Priya Kuriyan, Priyanka Kumar, Reshu Singh, Samidha Gunjal, Soumya Menon, Vidyun Sabhaney
Publisher Zubaan

About Menaka S

Menaka is a computational linguist by education, an optimist by attitude and a dreamer by how she spends her time. Being left-brained, she runs PlusMinus'n'More to indulge her right brain interests.

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