Extracts from Tynrai Shwa ki Tnat (Roots before branches) – A Graphic Novel

What comes to mind when you hear the term development? I am sure that it reaches many aspects. Can we term high rise buildings popping up creating concrete jungles in metropolitan cities as development? What about the other regions where nature takes its throne as the only key for development and sustainability?

This Graphic Novel contains the linkage between Tribal (khasi) folktales and Living root bridges construction. It also speaks about the cultural aspect of the matrilineal social structure, the myths and beliefs of the tribe, the geographical aspects and the materials used and the process of construction. When I was a school boy, the school library had a great collection of Comics, Graphic novels and illustrated books about Tin Tin, The Ramayana, The Bible, Japanese folktales, Celtic tales etc. Being inspired by these tales at such a young age, I had the passion to create a Graphic Novel that can communicate and narrate the stories of my land : The Khasi Hills. I hope with this graphic novel I can contribute at least a fraction if not a whole to my culture in sustaining and preserving it.

One of the most engrossing aspect of this land is its ability to creatively knit stories with the existence of every natural form: Lakes, Rivers, Mountains etc. This Graphic Novel is a fantasy story narration that talks about the Living Root Bridge at Nohwet, Meghalaya, India. The graphic novel will not only base itself on a contemporary setting but will take the reader on a journey of fantasy and tribal magic, through a conversation form of narrative between the grandfather and his granddaughter. The conversation and explanations take in the form of a folktale that was created to relate to the modern day issues of sustainable development and the effects of Climate change.

There are many cultural aspects of the region that will be inserted in the storyboard. For example, superstitious beliefs, the matrilineal society, indigenous practices, costumes and dances. In our world of Social media as stated by Dr. Lynne S. McNeill, (PhD, is an instructor and director of online development for the folklore program at Utah State University) that Folktales are an artistic Cultural Production that everyone can engage in. Not all can sing like great singers ( Beyonce, Freddie Mercury) but everyone can follow a rhyme ( Ring around the rosie). Similarly, not all can paint and draw like Michelangelo, Van Gogh but at least they can interpret their thoughts through stick figure drawings. This is evidential even in our world today, a world where memes dominate the social media realm. They are a digital documented folklore of our times.The very act of pressing “POST” in the digital realm of sharing turns it into a cultural documented data. Folktales and Folklores do not pass down out of random. These Folktales are passed on as a result of its relevance on the relation between the people and situations with the context of the Folktale. This further allows a strong engagement between the people and the tales. One of the challenges that was faced was the consistency of the illustration and its style. In a world where technology and information is in the digital realm, having one on one human interaction / Student – teacher one on one learning is vital.

Extracts from Tynrai Shwa ki Tnat / Roots before branches


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27 year old Shillong lad and an architect, currently doing Master’s degree at The Industrial Design Center(IDC School of Design), IIT Bombay.

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