I wrote اک احساس دو اکھاں نال چنگا (An Understanding Greater than Sight) as the first in a series of web comics. It seemed the perfect vehicle to flesh out and create a cast of characters for my longer term project, a Punjabi animated film which I am working on. I’ve had many wonderful experiences walking around Lahore, interacting with people and just looking around. This story came out of numerous times that I have run across blind men in and around the walled city. One day I met a blind man on the bus by the Lahore railway station. He had missed his stop and ended up getting off the bus at the same stop as me. He needed to cross a typically busy street, which is a challenge enough for one who can see. We crossed together. Another time, I met a blind man as I was on the way to get a dose of horrible, Punjabi cinema with some friends. We came across a man who had wandered out for an errand and lost his way back. We helped him navigate to a familiar spot. Another time I helped a man flag down a rickshaw during rush hour to get to his destination. I have seen groups of men, self sufficiently form a human chain, crossing the metal bridge above Mall road. The blind people in the photo were yet other people I saw in Hyderabad, Sindh. I have a great deal of appreciation for these brave people who don’t let their inability to see, keep them from wandering about cities that can be challenging for anyone. There is wisdom and humility to be gained from all these experiences I have shared with them.
The other inspiration for the story came from the myriad of food vendors, who push about their treats on wood carts, crying out to people with clever slogans to grab their attention. You meet all kinds of people, young and older who toil about pushing these carts in the heat, making snacks with what they can. Chana, bhuttas, shakar kandi, mooli, gaajar, gola gandas and so much more can be had from these carts. I have met humble channa walas, who for but a conversation and a few kind words offer their hard work to scruffy artists. I had been sick for a long time once, and had just managed to get out of the house for a short trip to the Lahore Fort. My relatives went in to enjoy the beautiful sites, while I, too weak to walk around, sat on the side, before the entrance with all the vendors. I sketched a gaajar/mooli wala. His friend noticed and pointed me out. They called me over and I shared a rough sketch to ease my terrible condition. The vendor was so humbled that I would find value in his trade to make a drawing of it. Of course his cart was beautifully decorated, with freshly cut vegetables. We spoke for a while, and then in typical Lahori fashion he said “I cannot offer you anything else, but these spiced carrots,” which I took with gratitude. Some of the photos below are of a bashful gola ganda wala. He was a young man I came across, and when I asked if I could photograph his cart, he became very shy, but agreed as if his livelihood or he were not deserving of appreciation. Another time I was really excited to see a Shakar kandi wala after some 10 or more years. I went over with a huge smile on my face and met a rather disgruntled vendor who wondered what I was smiling about. Everyone has bad days, or rough times, certainly these hard working vendors who make a living by selling their snacks for such a nominal price. Here’s to the blind that show us to see, and the makers of street food, who toil in the sun, for minimal compensation to the delight of all who greet them.
Included here are model sheets for the two characters, and rough pencil layouts for each of the seven pages. I also included a color and ink layer separated and composed together to give a sense of the layers that go into the art, as well as some photos I have taken that helped in the process.
Again, this could not have been written without the Punjabi language corrections by Faiza Ashraf and Nuzhat Abbas as well as the Gurmukhi transcribing by Gagan Malik and the always amazing Cholki Han, who gives me great, critical, artistic feedback to help push my work further. Thank you.