Wildlife cartoonist Rohan Chakravarty has for long with the help of his friends—birds and animals—poked gentle fun at the foibles and follies of human beings, which appear on his website Green Humour. Rohan was the recipient of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International President’s Award last year for his efforts to change attitudes towards nature. And now the young cartoonist and conservationist has a
comic book to his name titled The Great Indian Nature Trail with Uncle Bikky, which got published recently.
Before being fashioned into a book, the comics (created in 2016) first appeared on WWF’s education website One Planet Academy. Says Rohan: “After completing four months on the website with 16 comics in all, we decided to compile them into a book, with additional text and design.” In his cartoons, Rohan normally personalises the animals, but this time he was asked by WWF to use human characters instead to tell a story.
And so through the characters of Uncle Bikky, his wildlife photographer niece Chunmun and their pet Duggu, Rohan narrates the trio’s adventure—the many biodiversity hotspots they visit in India, the animals they observe, document and fall in love with.
Says Rohan, “I drew a lot of people I knew to see who fits the mould for the characters best and zeroed down on three persons, all close friends of mine—Bikram Grewal, because he is a quirky ornithologist, Munmun Dhalaria, a documentary filmmaker who is a very inspiring fellow-artist, and Doginder
Singh (friend and conservationist Prerna Bindra’s pet), because he is just so funny.”
Rohan hopes that with the help of this book, children would ‘imbibe a love for exploring the natural world’ as it takes the reader to different landscapes in India, bringing them face-to-face with Indian wildlife. The Sunderbans, the Hemis in Ladakh, the Western Ghats, Nicobar Islands, Kanha National Park and the Daroji Bear Sanctuary feature in the stories with sloth bears, dracos, snow leopards, hornbills and the tiger for company.
The 30-year-old Rohan may be an amateur where wildlife is concerned, but inspiration for the comics can come from anywhere. He says: “I love to sit idly in my balcony watching birds at the bird bath and that provided the inspiration for my favourite comic from the book Bird Bath Matinee. The three characters in the book end up doing exactly that. The style and presentation is very different from the work displayed in Green Humour. What is similar, however, is the simplicity and the light-hearted tone.”
Each comic in the book is followed by an essay by Bijal Vachharajani, author and editor of children’s books for WWF India. “I wanted someone who could break jargon down into casual conversation with the young reader. The idea behind the activities you see in the book is hers. She’s responsible for some of the best children’s books coming out of India,” says Rohan.
There are various illustrated children’s books with regard to wildlife conservation, though Rohan’s might be the only one with a comic book approach. A reader-friend of Rohan’s, who is a wildlife veterinarian, commented, “The book puts a smile on the faces of all readers, no matter what age.”