Two writers, illustrators, characters and languages, and one book

By Suman Mahfuz Quazi | Mumbai

Paro Anand speaks about her graphic novel, co-authored with Swedish writer Orjan Persson


Garima Gupta’s illustrations in 2

How did the book, 2, transpire? Tell us about your collaboration with Orjan Persson.

Örjan and I were part of a venture, funded by the Swedish Institute, which brought together Indian and Swedish writers and illustrators to work collectively on book ideas. Most groups started their work quickly and opted for picture books. But Orjan and I didn’t want to do this. We were seeking an adventure. So, we went out on a boat to jog our imaginations. Far out in the sea, two dolphins leaped out of the water. We looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s write something about dolphins.’ We decided to base our book in Goa and that it would be for teens.

What were the challenges in implementing the format of the novel, with the two protagonists’ stories overlapping and proceeding from the same sequence of events, though reversely, on either side of the paperback?

At first, it was very difficult because of the language barrier. Örjan was writing in Swedish and I, in English. The stories, writing styles and the voices of our characters were vastly different. We argued often. Once, he called my writing ‘stupid’ because what, to my Indian sensibility, was whimsical, sounded too absurd in Swedish. After an agonisingly long period, we had a story that we had finally knitted together.


Garima Gupta illustration

Why two illustrators as well?

My publisher [Scholastic] sent the manuscript to Garima Gupta for a few illustrations. But when she had a look, she said, ‘This is a graphic novel waiting to happen,’ and started working meticulously on it. That’s when the idea of having two illustrators for the two writers struck her and she roped in Kaveri Gopalakrishnan. It took five years for the book to be born, but Garima
and Kaveri managed to strike a delicate balance.

Bullying, social anxiety and other issues that plague Indian teens have been addressed through Ganga’s story...

I work closely with young people all over the country as well as other parts of the world. Bullying and social anxiety are universal, no matter what the income group or social background is. I try to empower young people who are in crisis through the safe space of reality-fiction.


Paro Anand

What is your takeaway from 2?

Writing is always an adventure. But this one really was. It started in Goa, shifted to Delhi, went on to Gotland through Stockholm, all the while web travelling to the US [Paro and Örjan used to send their scripts for translation to the latter’s sister]. It was also illustrated in various places, and the four creators of 2 have never met all together! But this book helped me experiment. I enjoyed the challenge of collaborative writing and want to do more. I also learnt to give up control and allow someone else to interpret my vision into something their own.

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