A graphic novel chronicles what it feels like to be an outsider in Mumbai
Created entirely on a phone camera, BombayHectic is a Delhi boy’s journey from disliking to loving the MumbaiHT48HRS_Special Updated: Jun 25, 2016 13:54 IST
The photo series starts with a picture of a purple suitcase on an orange carpet. It is followed by typical Delhi imagery — the Red Fort, green CNG autos, the pani-puri stalls and pigeon-flanked pavements. It then revisits the suitcase. Only, this time, there is text accompanying the picture: “27 years. I am packing 27 years in a suitcase.”
So goes the prelude to BombayHectic — a graphic novel created by Delhi boy Aazar Anis (28), with 800 followers on Facebook. A copywriter by profession, Anis moved to Mumbai in July, 2015, and was not impressed by the city at first. But the habit of taking pictures on his smartphone and writing about them helped him cope with the initial resentment. “Writing helps get over the loneliness,” Anis says.
That’s how BombayHectic was born: a graphic novel shot entirely on a smartphone, for Facebook and Instagram. The series combines photographs of elements that define Mumbai — the BEST bus, local trains, crowds, the pouring rain — with verses that elaborate on what it is like to live in the city that never sleeps. Anis released its latest chapter, titled A Home for Two, earlier this month.
A long way from home
BombayHectic succeeds DelhiHectic, a similar series created by Anis along with a friend, Arjun Jassal, in January 2013. “We felt Delhi was rapidly changing into something that we could no longer recognise. A feeling of not belonging crept in, and kept growing stronger. It pushed us into writing DelhiHectic,” recalls Anis.
DelhiHectic chronicles the lives of two restless Delhi boys. For instance, the chapter titled House of the Rapist features silhouettes of people and smoke, accompanied with poems that talk of anguish and angst — “I no longer tell women I am from Delhi,” says the text on a picture with a man’s shadow. Even with a steady figure of 1,000 followers, the series ended abruptly, in the second half of 2013. “We decided it had run its course. We felt we had said everything we wanted to say,” says Anis.
The duo moved on to a series on Kolkata, a city they visited for a short vacation. Using the same tone — pictures of the city’s iconic trams, the Howrah Bridge, the run-down mills and squatted buildings — the text spoke about the emotions the city evoked in Anis and Jassal. “Kolkata doesn’t require anecdotes. It requires a running commentary,” read a caption below a picture.
The island city
When Anis first moved to Mumbai in 2015, he re-booted the Hectic series to vent the frustration a non-Mumbaikar faces. The first chapter, as a result, is titled A Delhiite in Bombay and contains 20 pictures. With verses like “How did it get to this? Why did I come here?” and “The food is not the same and weather sticks to your skin”, Anis’s resentment towards the city is far from subtle.
However, it took a walk around Chapel Road, Bandra, for his perspective to change. “I was around the steps at Mount Mary when I realised how the city comes together during the monsoon. Also, I live close to Bandstand, and the view makes it all worth it. There’s something magical about the sea; it lulls you into believing that, no matter how bad things get, it will be okay. That’s how one falls in love with the city,” says Anis.
Over time, the posts on BombayHectic have turned positive. A recent picture of Bandstand around midnight reads, “Its 12.36am. The world is quiet like it hasn’t slept in a while. Who am I kidding? It never sleeps. Not here.”
With only 12 chapters dedicated to both the Delhi and Kolkata series, we wonder if BombayHectic, too, is nearing its end with 11 chapters? “Anything can happen,” says Anis, adding “I wouldn’t mind getting this published if someone approaches me. As of now, I’m happy with what I have.”