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Goodbye, 2020: Rohan Chakravarty

Rohan Chakravarty is a cartoonist and illustrator from Nagpur, India. He's the genius behind Green Humour, a series of cartoons, comics and illustrations on wild animals; wildlife and nature conservation, environment, sustainability and all things green. He's been a big source of inspiration for the consistent work he has done for years, creating much-needed awareness through the medium of comics.

In conversation with Rohan about the year that was:

How has this year been for you?

A mixed bag. While I have lost a lot of assignments that required travel, and my book had been out of print for 7 months owing to logistical difficulties brought in by COVID, this year has enabled me to take time out for personal projects that have been in the pipeline for years.

Did you learn anything new this year?

The most important thing I have learned this year is to be observant and appreciative of insects that I share my home with! And the credit for this goes to the I-naturalist app. I have even started documenting these insects in illustrations, in a series I call 'Home biodiversity'.

What was your routine like during the pandemic?

My routine hasn't changed much, as I have worked from home for the last 6 years entirely, except when projects require travel. I devote morning hours to watching birds (I have a daily unbeaten checklist submission streak of 1447 days on E-bird as I write this), chasing insects, and developing ideas for cartoons and comics for my series, while the later half of the day is reserved for commissions. I take noon naps as seriously as the Japanese do. My two pets Srishti and Sakshi take me for walks twice a day. I read, cook and sometimes sing in the evenings, and religiously explore cinema from around the world over weekends.

What dish did you cook the most in 2020?

My signature dhaaba-style Daal. I have also been making some very good use of a curry leaf plant in my backyard, making Kerala stew. What's the biggest obstacle you've overcome this year? Finally opening up to the idea of reading more fiction.

What was one of the moments you were most proud of this year? Finding the Marathi Cricket Frog (yes, that's actually a frog's species name) and the Kelaart's Pipistrelle (a kind of insectivorous bat), two creatures I had never seen before, in my very home in Nagpur! Later in the year I moved to a new home in Hyderabad with my partner Rithika, and we got the first photographic record of a rare bird called the Lesser Cuckoo from that city! Lesser Cuckoos migrate from the mountains in the Oriental world and the Himalayas to the Western Ghats, and one of these cuckoos decided to take an extended break in my backyard! I also felt very proud as a pet-dad when my two girls killed their first rat this year. Who really enriched your life this year in a big way? Insects and spiders, hands down! And not just by enlightening my knowledge of the natural world, but also by making my home environment more hospitable (yes, I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but spiders actually take out a lot of mosquitoes and pests!) The nicest thing you did for someone in 2020? Donated one of my comics free of charge to the Forest Department of Sikkim, to be used as hoardings across the state. The book that helped you the most in 2020? I'm not into self-help literature at all! (Sorry). It's actually a very wrong year to be discussing books with me, because it was in 2020 and the 33rd year of my life that I decided to delve into what might make for some of the most cliched reading for the rest of the world: the detective stories of Arthur Conan Doyle and Satyajit Ray. The song you heard on loop this year?

Mostly the music of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, AR Rahman, SD Burman, Palash Sen and Lucky Ali (I do not understand Western music).

Favorite film/TV show of 2020? Not a TV show person at all, but the best film I have watched this year has got to be Celine Sciamma's 'Portrait of a Lady on Fire' (it has also marched straight into my list of top 5 favourite films of all time)! My favourite English movies from the year are Charlie Kaufman's 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things' and 'Borat Subsequent Moviefilm' by Jason Woliner and Sacha Baron Cohen. The best Indian movie I have watched this year was Anurag Kashyap's 'Choked'. What's a lesson that this lockdown has taught you?

Acknowledging the fact that it is actually a lot more meaningful to understand nature in your immediate vicinity thoroughly, than to travel to exotic places chasing exotic wildlife.

What is one question that you found yourself asking over and over again this year?

When women leaders can turn crises around much more efficiently than men, why is the world dumb enough to elect so few of them to power?

A recent epiphany you've had? That the muddy structure around the mounting device of my ceiling fan is actually the work of a Potter Wasp! What’s your number one bucket list item for 2021? Last year, just before the pandemic struck, I had the great fortune of visiting Agumbe Wildlife Sanctuary over an assignment for my friend and frog researcher Madhushri Mudke, and encountering an endangered species of frog called the Kottigehar Dancing Frog. After this, I started paying much closer attention to frogs and found that Marathi Cricket Frogs had been living and breeding all around my home. This year too, I'd love to go see more frogs, preferably in the Western Ghats. Follow Rohan's comic Green Humours on Instagram for more comics and inspiration.


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