On an unexceptional day, Miss Moti, the plump, polka-dress toting protagonist of Miss Moti comics, listens to the unexceptional hum of the metro train in the comic strip titled, Miss Moti And The Big Apple. Soon, an attractive man enters the metro with a cello in hand, and things aren’t so unexceptional anymore.
He munches on an apple and a seed falls on the floor. This holds Miss Moti’s attention, and, within seconds, the compartment of the metro is filled up by a tree which springs from the seed. The commuters turn into animals and the polka dots on Miss Moti’s dress turn into wild flowers. Now, Miss Moti and her cello player, free of their inhibitions — and all attire — are transported into a wild jungle (The Garden of Eden, no less, with a snake and the forbidden fruit). However, Miss Moti’s fantasy is interrupted when the cello player chokes on an apple seed. They are back in the metro, and Miss Moti helps him get rid of the seed in his throat. She alights at the next station. The cello player, however, finds a wild flower on the floor and gazes at Miss Moti walking away.
Was it a dream, or did it just happen in Miss Moti’s head? Well, it doesn’t really matter, because by this time, the reader is hooked to Miss Moti’s sassy, dreamy charm. Kripa Joshi, the 34-year-old Nepal-born, UK-based creator of Miss Moti comics manages to speak volumes about Miss Moti’s dreams and aspirations without a single word in the comic strips. Even the rather erratic Skype connection (thanks to which this interview was conducted) doesn’t deter her from giving us an animated description of her life and how it gave rise to Miss Moti.
Joshi was born in Kathmandu and admits to being the quintessential middle child — confused and emotional. Art, in fact, was not strongly on her mind until it was time to go to college — her weight was. “I always compared my plump figure with that of the Nepali girls around me, who were rather slight. I developed some health issues, and often changed my eating habits, but I only put on more weight with time. Now when I look back, I think it was all rather stupid,” she smiles into the laptop camera.
Joshi studied Humanities at the Maharani Gayatri Devi School in Jaipur and bagged a scholarship to study art at the Maharaja Sayaji Rao University at Baroda. “For my final year thesis, I created paintings that mirrored my weight and body issues. One, called Shadows Lie, depicted how long shadows can trick a person. Another, called Conscience Pricks, depicted a large sofa with an upholstery with food prints. That was the first time my art reflected my personal issues.”
After teaching art in schools in Nepal for four years, Joshi went to the US on a Fulbright Scholarship and studied at the School Of Visual Art. “Soon, I was introduced to the history of comics. I fell in love with Winsor McCay’s comics, Little Nemo, which were in print around 1906. They were all about the adventures of a young boy who falls asleep and has these crazy adventures. The reader never really knows if it was real or fantasy, and I loved that ambiguity. It is now a part of Miss Moti, too.”
During her second-year thesis, Joshi, once again, created paintings reflecting her body issues. “At the centre of one painting, for instance, I drew a large woman who dilly-dallied at the edge of the swimming pool, clutching at her towel to cover her ample figure, comparing herself to a hippo. But, in the border of the painting, the same hippo frolicks in its natural surroundings as if it didn’t give a damn about its size, which actually is the case, you know,” says Joshi. “That’s how MissMoti was born.”
Her mother, says Joshi, is the inspiration behind Miss Moti. “My mother was amply endowed, but she never let her size hold her back. She was the sort who stuffed herself up with balloons, put on a blond wig and turned up at office parties as Santa Claus. In fact, because she was married off at 16, she went on to pursue her education after the age of 35, which was a big deal in our family. In the comics, too, Miss Moti doesn’t hold herself back - from a challenge or a sexy fantasy. In the comics, once the polka dots on her dress disappear, her inhibitions are shed, too,” smiles Joshi.
Joshi, who works as an art technician at a UK school, says most of her comics are sold at comic conventions and workshops. She self-published the three Miss Moti comics that are currently available on Amazon and Etsy - Miss Moti and The Cotton Candy, Miss Moti and the Big Apple and Miss Moti and Her Short Stories. Joshi now plans to sell her comics in India too. “I am in talks with bookstores and lending libraries in Mumbai, and will soon sell my comics there, too,” she says.
“Miss Moti is a wordless comic, and I think that’s what makes her and her aspirations so universal; you really don’t need words to describe even some very personal feelings,” says Joshi.
For more information, log on to www.missmoti.com, and to buy other works by Kripa Joshi, log on to www.kripakreations.com