HYDERABAD: We call them taboo topics. Death, menstruation, incest, and sexuality. But being termed as taboos does not simply make these experiences disappear. Lakhs of people who undergo such life situations are tired of their stories being brushed under the carpet because they are not deemed kosher for mainstream, living room conversations.
A graphic comic book for children, produced as part of a fellowship by Orikalankini, makes an attempt to tell 10 stories of surviving life. Titled ‘Survivors at the Coffee Shop,’ the book has been edited by Tenzin Norwang and Khushi Patel, and illustrated by Sanika Dhakepalkar.
Orikalankani, an organisation that aims to change narratives around menstruation and sexuality in India through art and dialogue, was founded by Dr Sneha Rooh, who is a palliative physician in Hyderabad. Through the 13-week fellowship, the group identified 13 teens and adults to implement projects they were interested in.
“The idea of the book originated from the team’s desire to produce a book that can raise awareness on sex education and child abuse. As we worked on it, it struck us that sexual violence is not the only form of violence people survive. So, gradually, the team included stories of people who had survived cancer, homophobia, suicide of a dear one, and domestic violence. The team of editors and illustrator tried to present the stories in a way which does not shock the readers, but help them navigate similar situations,” says Dr Sneha.
Tenzin, who is pursuing a degree in social work in Bengaluru, says that she has always felt that it was high time society destigmatised menstruation and sex education. “When I saw the fellowship notification, I instantly knew that it was something I would love to do. We are not taught these topics elaborately in school, and I strongly feel that children should be aware about these issues,” she says.
Echoing the same, Khushi Patel, who is studying in Class 12 in Mumbai, says: “I know child abuse survivors who did not know that they were being abused. Though parents are slowly waking up to this issue, there is still a long way to go. Awareness is one of the ways to tackle this.” So how do we get to buy this book?
“The soft copy of the book has been shared on our social media platforms, but if someone wants to buy a hard copy and contribute towards our cause, one can contact us. It is available on Amazon, too. Those who are interested can check our social media page to stay updated. We also have a crowdfund link on the platform Milaap. By donating through that link, they can help us distribute books among schools for free,” adds Dr Sneha.