Growing up in Kashmir, I found the people around me struggling to express themselves without fear. As my surroundings were shut down by curfews, my family had to bear the worst effects of war. My father, a bus driver, and my mother, a housewife, often strained themselves to give my younger siblings and me an education. At the age of 13, I started working jobs, as a salesperson selling cloth till the 12th standard and then as a medical representative to pay for college. During this time, I found in the art of cartooning not only a place of safety but to use the words of Charlie Chaplin, “To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain, and play with it!”. From my experience, I learnt the value of resilience and flexibility in the face of adversity at a young age.
In college, I learnt how much of what we see influences our purception of the world around us, in particular when it comes to the politics of the day, something I have a keen interest in. For my graduation project in college, I worked on utilizing the visual medium to help create awareness amongst civilians to the risks of natural disasters like earthquakes. This experience prepared me for my work as a consultant for the international NGO’s Save the Children and later Action Aid. I think of my work with them as an invention, though visually implemented, that can help change existing perceptions to create changes in behavior.
l have worked in the media as a cartoonist from the age of seventeen. Through my art practice, I believe I have been able to make a small but successful effort to negotiate space for my ideas while maintaining the editorial integrity of the organizations I have worked for in a diffcult environment with a vareity of actors. The diverse subjects of my cartoons are in line with the prominent news stories of the day, ranging from inhumane laws such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to widespread corruption to inflation. To understand my audience, I believe in conversing with people from different backgrounds both inside and outside the office setting. This helps me understand the complexities of an issue and create stories that best capture the core issues in a news story.
In 2012, I got the opportunity to work with a business, Crafted in Kashmir, and focused on combining my creative aesthetic with the practicalities of creating a high-quality product in competitive market for a specific audience . I worked with a team of weavers and designers. Most of the weavers though tremendously talented, could not read or write. As such, it was a continuous challenge to give them the tools to execute a particular vision for a product. Throughout this process, I took into account the suggestions of not only the design team but also the weavers, often leading to better quality products than we envisioned. I also had to devise technologies and use computer software to seamlessly integrate the idea for a product with its subsequent production, monitoring and quality control.
Within the limited range of the field, I have from time to time been able to integrate literary devices and figures of speech into my work. From metaphors, irony, satire to personification, antithesis (juxtaposition) and allusion, among others, my cartoons contain within them voices and critical commentary presented in the form of image. I specialize in producing images that are dialogical and contain multiple messages that allow viewers to consider issues from a diverse set of perspectives. Over the past years, I have consistently, and on a daily basis published my cartoons in Kashmiri press and also through social media, with a wide reception, to the point that I have learnt how to become very efficient in my work. In this process, I have had the opportunity to engage with my particular take on local and global issues of importance. In the future, I hope to work in an environment that allows me to develop my craft even further with a greater range of ideas.