A new series of comic books celebrates everyday Mumbaikars with accompanying rhymes
The first edition of a new series of comic books featurs characters who are synonymous with Mumbai, such as the dabbawala, housemaid and wannabe actor, the latest volume delves deeper into the city's fabric
A caricature and rhyme from volume two
"O Fisherwoman, you are a mystery/ You bring us the freshest fish, the aroma's for free/ We see you fighting and jostling for space/ In the local train compartment, where you play your ace/When someone errs to pick on you/ You unleash the attack on the noses before they can argue!" goes Abhijeet Kini's rhyme facing his caricature of a Koli fisherwoman, with a veni in her bun and the catch of the day piled up before her in two baskets. A ravenous cat eyeing the mackerel in her hand completes the quintessential snapshot from Mumbai's fish markets.
The Koli lady is one of Kini's nine superheroes who made it to his comic book, Rhyme Fighters, which came out in October last year. Meant to be a one-off project - copies of which are available at a Parsi restaurant in Mumbai, and its other outlets in Delhi NCR, Hyderabad and Bengaluru - it drove the illustrator and graphic artist to keep his eyes peeled for more such people who make the city what it is. Fresh off the release of the second edition of Rhyme Fighters, he now plans to bring out a volume dedicated to everyday Mumbaikars every 45 days.
The fisherwoman from volume one
While the first edition featured characters who are synonymous with Mumbai, such as the dabbawala, housemaid and wannabe actor, the latest volume delves deeper into the city's fabric. And so you would find a caricature and rhyme for the "Ninja of odometers" who whizzes down the road to deliver food. "It's funny how we can't wait for them to arrive with our order, but take potshots at them when they drive past us," says Kini, a fan of American humour magazine MAD, which has a similar concept of bringing together rhymes and caricatures.
Asked about how he captures the nuances of his characters, he says, "It's all about being observant, and making mental notes." He recalls an instance from over a decade, "I used to travel to my Andheri office in a rickshaw. One day, as I hopped into one, I was surprised that the driver already knew where I was headed. That's when he told me that he had been ferrying me to work every day for the past three days. And I hadn't even noticed! The association lasted for over two and a half years. He was like my Uber before it arrived."
In a way, the comic book is also a documentation of Mumbai because it dedicates pages to those professions that may cease to exist in the face of an ever-changing city. There's the postman, and the third volume, for which Kini has finalised his list, will feature an astrologer and Baba Bengali - settled under a tent with his concoctions to cure every problem.
Kini's creations don't just fascinate residents of Mumbai, but also bring a whiff of the city to those residing outside. "As it is the Parsi cuisine creates a home away from home, and then the artworks serve as a reminder of the city," he says. Is the idea of coming up with a volume every 45 days sustainable? "Bombay has so much to offer that I am never going to run out of ideas," Kini sums up.
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