Ahmedabad sisters wants to make studying law enjoyable
This is possible only in a comic series, of course, say two sisters from Ahmedabad, who want to make the study of laws, rights and the Constitution, enjoyable
If you were a kid growing up in the 90s, you'd remember the subject Civics in school curricula as the slim textbook that was appended to History. The 100 marks term paper for 'History and Civics' would be proportioned so: History got a substantial 60 while Civics got the remainder 40. The subject, says lawyer Kanan Dhru, is one of the most pertinent that children have to study.
Simply put, it is about knowing your rights and duties. "But school curricula and textbooks have a very matter-of-fact approach to it, which tends to bore students. And, imagine your fundamental rights — the most important ones — being listed in just a matter of bullet points," says Ahmedabad-based Kanan, 34.
In an attempt to pique the curiosity of young minds about the study of the law and the Indian Constitution, Kanan and her 30-year-old sister, Kelly, devised a clever approach in 2014. "Kelly and I always enjoyed telling stories. Even if we visited a restaurant, we would create a story about the diners around us! Therefore, we thought comics would be a good way to introduce the subject," says Kanan.
Immediately thereafter, the Dhru sisters went live on crowdfunding portals with their concept. After a three-year wait, Lawtoons, their comics series meant for children between 10 and 14, will be launched in New Delhi this week. The series has five volumes, each addressing a fundamental right, available only as a full set for R195. Published by Vani Prakashan, the comics will be available online soon and also translated into regional languages.
Since 2009, the sisters had been conducting a series of voluntary workshops in schools. These interactive sessions, in which they used PowerPoint presentations, were meant to liven up the study of the Constitution. "Laws have to be simplified to empower citizens. This is important information that has to be presented in an engaging manner," she says.
Lawtoons is a natural extension of those workshops, says Kannan. The sisters engaged with a number of people in the course of this project. Firstly, there is Anish Daolagupu, who has illustrated the series. "We approached the National Institute of Design (NID) for support. We were directed to Anish," says Kannan.
The team scanned the multitude of Indian faces to create Pagloo, the little boy in the series through whom the stories are told. It meant getting under the skin of this character, who has an insatiable curiosity. In the first volume (which is available for free on their website www.lawtoons.in) on the freedom of speech, Pagloo is introduced to a gift from his late grandfather, a tattered copy of the Indian Constitution. From this book arises a genie-judge, who becomes Pagloo's mentor and Casper-figure. "We had to really get to the heart of Pagloo and thrash out a character sketch. We even know what kind of food he likes," laughs Kanan. She then adds, "We didn't want these to remain as online comics since we were keen to cater to rural children, who may not have access to technology."
Through the course of making the comics, the sisters also formed a panel of five children, through whom they would vet their stories. They also consulted with a child psychologist to make sure that the young characters' interaction with their peers and adults were healthy.
"Writing comics, we realised, was a challenge. You have to marry visuals with text, which is very different from writing straight text. This is why we feel that our later comics are better than the first," says Kanan, who graduated from the London School of Economics and currently works with the intersection of law, design and technology. Kelly is pursuing her doctoral studies in bioethics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, after having previously studied at Oxford and Harvard. "I am all about executing and Kelly is philosophical. Together we make a good team," says Kanan.
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