Four panels of 3rd December

18th to 20th November 2009 Bhopal, India

World Comics India & Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan

The workshop was initiated in the midst of amorphous environment. In the first day everything from the space to the children who would participate came into play like an extempore, which gradually shaped itself giving newer dimensions to the days to come.

The participants consisted of children from a private school named GB convent school located in old Bhopal .students from 6th to 12th standard. The heterogeneous group settled down in a nursery classroom in the school…that was the first day! The day started with interaction with children. The school had a belief that there would be a drawing competition held. By the time the truth unfolded that it is not a competition the children showed mixed emotions. The chart papers which were brought by them were tore into A4 sheets, which added to our advantage because the stationary did not arrive at time. The workshop proceeded amorphously and beautifully.The word workshop was then fragmented to understand together the language of comics .Fun frolic and learning rather in short masti in the children’s voice in 3 days. Some white sheets were distributed to them and they were told to shade the entire paper with pencil. When the shaded paper were held in front of them any kind of image that they could think of and that was immediately formed in their mind were shared by them. Before every story the base that support it, is an issue or more academically a subject that the story is based on. The images that flooded in their minds were all environment related.

That showed the children in their subconscious mind had thought and related their childhood in the midst of images that they named like pollution, black clouds, grey, gas emission and ‘ something bad’. Then the next word chalked in the blackboard was childhood. They pondered over the word for a while and distinguishingly named all that’s colourful, fun frolic and all that’s nice. They showed us that their colourful childhood has been enduring in the midst of all that is. grey in the city of Bhopal. When I say grey here it is not a mixture of black and white but only shades of black some of which are lighter and some very dark.

DISCUSSION OF ISSUE We took the discussion further and talked about various comics they are aware of and the comics that they as participants would be doing in this workshop. While we saw that talking about issues and forming story was a bit confusing for them we showed them wallposter comics sample and they decoded the comics language quickly. Now they knew that the story is not an essay that they write in school but their personal or formed narratives divided into four visual frames. STORY READING SESSION The Bhopal gas tragedy is a history that long lost, unrelated though the children could not see the relation their childhood had in the midst of the environment problems. Like for a particular generation the freedom struggle is a history. They wrote the story techinically all the facts of Bhopal were correct like all history remembered without emotions. But when they spoke earlier what childhood means to them they spoke with lots of energy because they have been a part of it.

It is a learnt and lived fact for them. This was not the same when they wrote about the issue of Bhopal Gas tragedy. We had to break the ice again. When each child read out their story we asked them the source that communicated the story of 1984 gas tragedy. They shared now it was their family members, relative and the school. We drew the parallel lives of the children their childhood after a history of gas emission in the city. Children as story tellers suddenly emerged to be the generation carrying the thought of change after the gas tragedy. They told the story with emotions narrating how their parents and surroundings told them how panicked they were when their lives were in danger. Gradually the parallel generations coincided. In some form or the other whether they are related directly as a family, as a neighbour or may be as a by-stander, they were all victimised. the ‘victimised’ changed its definition for us when the children read their story and very subtly communicated that they are a part of the ‘genes’ who demand change. They too want a peaceful surrounding because the pathos of 1984 is told to them at every occasion as fairy tales. For children of this city they remember pathos ‘smoky tales’ because it is hard to forget history even if the emotions are tried to be subdued by their adult generations in front of them.

Abstract of some stories

Children shared stories of family members discussing the gas tragedy. When one day a son was sitting with his father he asked what is the gas tragedy after hearing the name Bhopal Gas Tragedy in the news. His father told the about the destruction and this discourse if the child and his father was put in visual form later while the participant made the final comics. There was another participant who at first thought of writing a story on smoke. We tried to figure out what smoking as bad habit because he wanted to write something on environment. We asked him if he can associate something with the gas tragedy and then came the final story. The story he penned down was the real story of loosing his father in the incident of 1984, “…he was there, he was making people drink lemon water, he could survive some couple of years because mother says he did not smoke but then his health deteriorated and he left us…” he continued speaking as he wrote “the compensation received are not much to feed four of us ( three siblings and his mother), and even if the compensation is there my mother still sobs every time she reads or hears about the Gas tragedy”. The incident he wrote in the story was of on such

day while watching an action movie the mother saw smokes and related immediately with the incident and then the story ends with the absence of someone very near in the family. For many the 3rd December holiday in school was the triggering effect to form the story. A participant narrated a story where he questioned why is it a holiday on the 3rd of December and then the story followed where her teacher communicated to her about the incident. The stories finally formed brought out the agony and the sense of wonder children carried cognitively even if born after the incident. They were storytellers of the various events of a tragic issue that just completed 25 years history of suffering. They emerged to be the voice of their parents, grand parents and some who might be invisible in the story but very much remembered by them 25 years hence.

ROUGH VISUAL SCRIPT Postures and then facial expression were drawn before the children. The participant observers came up from their stool to add to the exercise. They confidently drew some expressions making us understand that they comprehended. What proceeded then was the rough visual scripting. A4 white sheets were given to them and they sketched the visuals and added narrations in four frames. The younger children were swift in understanding the exercise but faced difficulty in forming the dialogues. The older participants of 8th to 12th standard helped the younger ones while learnt the division of visual frames from the younger ones. It was such a visual treat to watch the collaboration of the different age groups in speaking comics language. The rough visual script was prepared with ease and successfully. wallposter comics that was stuck on the wall was referred by them quite often as they prepared the visual script. The comics manual book was distributed to them. They now took fleeting looks in both the manuals and the wallposter around them. Some participants finished their rough visual scripting and were given fresh papers to initiate the final artwork. The measurement was shown to them to help them divide the frame nicely. The first half of the day prepared many participants in drawing four frames looking at the measurement from the board.

FINAL ARTWORK INITIATION Speech bubbles were drawn before them and now children knew the space they have to create for both the visual and the speech bubbles.Some children finished inking (only the visuals as we suggested to keep the the dialogue box empty) while all the others had already grabbed fresh papers for the final artwork. By the end of the day all children had finished preparing the final artwork in pencil while some majority already finished inking the final artwork. The dialogue box now remained without inking for some.

We started the day earlier than the last two days. Children were waiting for our arrival at 9 am in the morning at their school’s entry gate. As all the children settled we distributed their final artwork and they started inking them. We showed some of them inking again as we did for some in the last day. The black sketch pens were then given to them and black shading was explained to them. They articulated their final artwork with black shading in houses they made, floors, and dresses patterns and around dialogue boxes. For some children whose script was not very long, we suggested them the use the black sketch outline for the dialogue box while some just outlined the four frames.

After completion of the final visual script came the time where they could be suggested titles for their story. Some children were ready to discuss their title, as we finalized theirs we moved on to discussing titles for the others the titles are to be made attractive so the children highlighted the fonts and made small visual gestures to make their wallposter comics look significant and nice. After completion of all final artwork the children made corrections with correction ink where they thought necessary to make the comics better. All the comics were ready to be photocopied by 12 pm. the children waited patiently till the arrival of the comics but as the comics arrived after a hour they were so excited to grab their individual copies. Their photographs were taken holding their individual comics and they smiled, confidence glittering in their bright eyes.

FIELD TEST The children walked with their comics through a nearby lane near the school. We spotted a place located at the backside by-lane of the school which they name as Mahamai temple place and this is where we performed our field testing. As children shared their comics some of the people sobbed reading their comics, they could relate with the story. It was a different mode in which the workshop unfolded in the last day. The children were unaware of the visual communication they were doing with the adults in the lanes as they shared their comics. They did it without transaction of purpose but simply to share their individual story. After sharing with the people they asked their permission to stick the comics on their house or shop walls, they got the permission lovingly. The children became confident to share their stories in public.


We came back from the field testing and children shared the reward of remark they received… “There were more deaths than you can imagine but the attempt of innocently putting the expressions through comics is magnificent!” . More comments came up “show these visuals to the people who have kept our compensation in their pockets!”

Then they were people who poured in their anger to the first world …“we will never allow America to settle here, they gave us death”…she did not want the Union Carbide Factory to be open again even for viewing. For some it’s like opening the death bed again. A lady sitting near a temple sobbed while speaking her grief out to the children, “my young 23 year daughter died after this incident, she would have been married with children by now , like you…”

Pointing at one of the comics a man who was busy stitching clothes at his tailor shop said, “Are these drawn by you? While other person near him suggested a child to draw more destruction, putting aside for a moment the naive attempt a child had made in drawing destruction which he had never seen but heard. While there were others who did not speak much but offered their gratitude to the children for the comics they made and for remembering the incident. People associated with the stories of the children. The lives of the children their family, surroundings and these people they communicated their stories coincided and were no more parallel like the beginning of the workshop.

The amorphous beginning gave a nice structure to the third and the final day of the workshop. History is unlikely to be treated as subject and the people and the emotions as mere objects. The comics displayed history with emotions. The children brought life again to the many subdued emotions omnipresent in their surroundings. Sometimes history can be told through a child’s mind even if it means to give life to the subject – ‘gas tragedy’ 25 years hence.

The painful incident – three students discuss a lesson taught in the classroom. one says that their teacher referred to the gas tragedy incident while teaching a lesson on catastrophe the others pondered a while thinking to learn more about the incident when they go back home. They asked their parents about the incident. The next day they share each other that one of their uncle had visual impairment, the other student shared that some families were shelter less and the third girl imagined their generation having been lucky to escape the painful incident ----Ankita Dixit

Uneasiness - the story starts with some children playing cricket and they wait to start until their friend Raghav joins them. While playing Raghav’s friend asks him whether his uncle was visually challenged or not .Raghav replies that his uncle could not see post the gas leak incidence at 1984. That night Raghav’s friend felt uneasy to sleep. —Rudrapal Singh

A poisonous recall - the story of a girl who shares the account of her friend’s mother’s health affected by the gas leak incidence. She shares that her friend’s mother was one among those many people affected by the gas. She was 16 when she was affected by the incident. Even now she remains ill all the time and often visits the government hospital doctors. —Pushpa Khushne

My curiosity - a teacher announces holiday in the classroom for the 3rd of December. a curious student comes back home and asks his sister the reason of the public holiday. The sister replies that many lives were lost due to the Gas Tragedy December 3, 1984 so the state announces a holiday on the day every year. The child contemplates that his life would have been lost if was present during the incident. ---Lalit Sahu

Papa - A boy along with his mother watches a movie. The mother sobs as she recollects the gas incidence seeing smoke emanate in the movie. She tells his son that that his papa’s life was lost due to the gas incidence and the compensation they get after his death is distributed among three children and herself .The boy listens to his mother patiently and understands the reason of his mother sobbing .He wished his father’s presence. —Ashish Singh

Clouds—a small girl looks at dark cloud in the sky and thinks that it would rain. She runs to her mother to share her belief but her mother shares a completely different understanding of the cloud to her daughter. The mother shared about the factory gas leak incidence and the smoke that formed a heavy dark cloud in the sky during that time. The child believes the reason of dark clouds forming in the sky does is not rain but also something as bad as gas emanating from factories. —Harsha Jain

A Horrifying Incident: An anecdote of the past that narrates a family in Jabalpur watching news of Gas leak in Union Carbide Factory that takes place in Bhopal. The father realizes that his relatives are staying in the city and that he must go to see them. He bids farewell to his daughter and leaves. The father finds his relatives safe and communicates to his tensed daughter in Jabbalpur. They all pray and thank the lives who were lost to save theirs. —Sunita Singh

Why like this? — Two women conversing about the gas incidence recalls an account where a family runs to save their life. The woman speaks about a lady whose husband expired when the gas leaked and she was looking for some water around so that she can at least save the lives of her children and later she feels happy to see her children fine. The story of the lady with children wraps as the woman speaks of the people of Bhopal getting to know the news of the gas leak under control after some days of the incident. ----Nandini Saini

Black clouds — a child looks at the dark clouds and thinks it to be smoke. She asks her mother the reason that causes smoke to which her mother replies ‘it is wood and coal that when burned gives out black smoke. She goes to ask the same question to her father and he replied ‘it is vehicles and factories that emanate black smoke’. The child gives an after thought that a black smoke gives a beautiful cloud shape to the sky but sometimes this black smoke comes out of dangerous factories. --Ruchika

The gas incident --- the story narrates the conversation between a son and his father about the gas tragedy of December 3, 1984. The father narrates that he was sitting at his office and suddenly heard commotion around him that told each other to run for life and that he had witnessed so many loss of lives. He wished that such an odd situation never took place. —Sonu Bayam

Our sore narration: a girl speaks of her holiday in school on the 3rd of December and asks him to narrate his story of the incident. The grandfather narrates the child that it was a terrible sight to remember to see so many deaths and that he fainted during the incident. The child asks her grandmother to narrate more. The grandmother narrates how sore was it to look at their own face when it was all so swollen and painful ---.Deepika Singh Rajpoot

Poisonous Gas: A person catches hold of his acquaintance and asks him what he has been doing these days. The old man narrates that his days pass taking rounds of the hospital and back home. It is a poisonous gas that now rules his life and his daily chore is to travel the distance between his home and the hospital. ---Vikram Singh

The Gas Tragedy: Three students discuss about the Bhopal’s gas leak incidence while their teacher walks in the classroom. They ask their teacher if she has witnessed the incident. The teacher shares about the gas leak and that she had lost the life of her grandfather during the incident. The students wish that the same horrifying incident never take place in Bhopal. ---- Sheetal Upadhyay

Wish it never happened! : Pinki announces her holiday on 3rd December to her grandmother. Her grandmother narrates the reason to her. She tells her about the gas leak and how many lives of human and environment was spoiled. The children born after the incident became physically disabled. Pinki’s grandmother concludes by saying that after 25 years the scenario is much better but wishes that the incident never happened. ---Neha Gehlot

Hospital: Some friends were playing while one of them fainted. The children took their friend to the hospital and informed the friend’s father to come their. The doctor informed the father that his child is suffering from typhoid. When the child is admitted in the hospital the father shares with his son that the hospital reminded many of those children who were admitted in this hospital way back in 1984 when the gas leak incident took place. He further shares that some of the children carried some or the other physical impairment post the incident. --- Yogendra

The Gas Episode : Sonu , Lalu and Kalu were disussing about the Gas leak incident and no one appeared to know much about it. The friends decide to go to Sonu’s home and know about the incident from his grandfather. They ask his grandfather to narrate the gas episode. Sonu’s grandfather narrated about the incident of 1984. Having learnt the lived reality of the past the children expressed their honor to all those who lost their lives in the gas leak episode. —Abhishek Sharma

History: A son wants to know about 3rd December 1984 from his father as the school offers a holiday on the day every year. The father narrates the history of the gas leak that happened in Union Carbide factory. He continues that the incident occurred when he was at his friend’s home. It was horrifying to see people become homeless, shattered and fainted because of the harmful gas emission. ---Sonu Bamde

Hope: Palak had not been able to come to play with her friends. Her friends hoped they could have played if Palak was well so they decide to pay a visit to her home. When they arrive at home Palak tells them that it is not her illness but her deteriorating health of her grandmother that forbade her to leave the house. The story wraps with an afterthought that how persistently would our grandparents be suffering an ill health”. —Divyanshi Soni

How did gas tragedy happen? -A child was watching news in the television that spoke of 25th year of the Bhopal Gas tragedy. The child asks his father about the gas tragedy. The father narrates his son the shocking incident in the tragedy that took place at 1984 3rd December. He witnessed the death of a person who was trying to open the lid of the factory’s gas tank. After listening to the story the child gives an afterthought ‘ if the gas did not escape, no death must have taken place’. ---- Sanjeev Dubey

The ghastly night – Priya asks her grandmother the reason of her weak eyes. The grandmother gives her reason. She narrates the Bhopal Gas incidence that occurred years before emanated harmful gases. Her eyes deteriorated because of the gas. The child listens to grandmother’s episode and decides to share her knowledge about the gas tragedy to her friends when she goes to play at the park. --- Swati Kushwaha

The poisonous death- a child tells his friend that it is a public holiday on 3rd December because of the gas tragedy that took place 25 years back. the friend wishes to know more from his father. He goes to his father and asks what occurred 25 years back. His father responded his son about death and destructions that took place in the city on 3rd of December 1984. The child reflected on the event and wished it never happened. ---Shubham Nagvaar

For more information: Sharad Sharma World Comics India phone +91-9811702925

Report: Rajeshwari & Siddharth Summaries: Rajeshwari Illustrations: Participants, Siddharth Photographs: World Comics

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