This is a review of the Graphic Novel, Munnu, by Malik Sajad. It’s a coming of age story of Sajad, alias Munnu, in Kashmir. Kashmiris are depicted as Hanguls, or Kashmiri Stags. The book is not for the light hearted, or the opinionated. It’s for the “third person” in the conflict. It’s for the “neutral opinion”, or the “moderator” in the debate on Kashmir. This review, though, has not made any effort to be politically correct. So feel free to sputter deliriously with anger.
I’ve rated the book 5/5. But, maybe I should have thought twice before doing so. While Sajad makes you love the protagonist, he will probably garner more wrath than appreciation from the typical Indian TV News audience.
The story begins quite simply – it is introduced as the story of a very talented little boy who likes to draw. The story then expands to his navigation through the mess of adolescence and adulthood with a new job that makes him draw through reefs of pages to understand his life. I thought I knew Sajad’s backyard and understood his angst through each of his panels.
Sajad just wanted to draw, but then he had to deal with the bottomless depths of history of Kashmir even before he could grow into his adult pants. He donned the coat of a political thinker and cartoonist, but was indeed a child that only expressed his confusion through the newspaper. Soon, though, he comes to understand. Slowly and quickly, with each death and hopeless story that he encounters. And he draws about each of these learnings, over and over again till he thinks he has understood them. The part with the complicated history of Kashmir is exquisite, I’ve bookmarked it.
The character building of each of Sajad’s family members is complete. The peripheral characters are given due attention, too. For instance, when a “martyr” is portrayed, it’s subtle, and never forceful. Just mysterious enough to make you wonder which side is right, after all.
The art in the graphic novel is spell-binding. The detailing needs a thick lens to appreciate fully. The content needs wide arms to accept; I did, and it was warm.
Read the book for a look at how it feels from the point of view of a little child in a strife ridden Kashmir. Read the book to understand the nightmare that such a society thrusts on people – a society that allows no expression and no room for movement in its social or economic fabric. It’s harrowing and depressing. But at the same time, there are sparks of brightness in the form of innocence that pierces through the grimness that is curfews.Read the book. Look at it. Look at the Hangul’s eyes in the panels. They have lines of hope, anger, passion, confusion and a strange indifference about the chaos that surrounds them.
The Kashmir story is not black and white, but this black and white grey chronicle is quite something. It’s beautiful. 5/5.