Dharavi has been experiencing an epidemic of a new kind. Comics about local nutrition, sanitation and health issues have been appearing on the walls. The fuss-free comics were drawn by young and old residents, for whom this was their first encounter with the medium. During intensive sessions about the graphic format (expressions, postures, dialogues, frames), participants developed narratives based on their own experiences. Each presented at least one black and white comic and care was taken to improve skills without losing personal style. Looking at the results, it was hard to imagine that few knew much about comics and fewer had read them.

The first set of comics focussed on food habits and connected to sanitation issues, such as Komal’s comic about a boy who buys fast food from a street hawker instead of eating the lunch his mother has packed for him. Another set responded to the question, how safe is your world? These comics addressed injuries, both commonplace and unique: dog bites, street fights, impersonating a superhero, heartbreak, performing stunts and pressure to achieve. The groups went to Kumbharwada, Naik Nagar, Kala Killa, Transit Camp, Shahu Nagar, Shastri Nagar and Sree Shakti Nagar and chose public spaces to paste up their comics, including the walls of houses and schools, compounds, electric meters and shops.

Passers-by noticed the comics and discussed the issues they raised with the participants. The medium was relatively new for many readers and they asked for guidance. Probably the strongest feature of the highly visual medium was that even people with little education could enjoy the story.

Watch the film by Ketaki Savnal

Ketaki's film is a finalist in the Global360 Challenge, a filmmaking contest for 18-25 year-olds in India to create films and TV shows about how India is changing, and how society, technology and aid are transforming Indian lives for the better.

Comics Epidemic was presented at Comics and Medicine: From Private Lives to Public Health, an international workshop hosted by Graphic Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Department of Art as Applied to Medicine, 26th - 28th June, 2014.

Mentor Artist 

Chaitanya Modak

Participant artists

Akhtarunissa, Mizbah, Bhavesh Devaliya, Kaushik Devaliya, Sachin Jaiswal, Sudanshu Sharma, Surekha Kadam, Priyanka Tapase, Shubangi Sonawane, Nisha, Suryamala Adsal, Sonali, Sita Waghmare, Jyoti Katke, Mangal, Sudha Sadaphule, Pinku Jha, Dashrath, Rupesh Sable, Raghavendra Pol, Komal Kale, Komal Vhatkar, Lakshman Mane, Saraswati Bhandare, Nilesh Pendurkar, Kishan Salbul, Akshay Shinde, Manoj Jaiswar, Ravi Vishwakarma, Avinash Jadhav, Navita Chitkindi, Sunitha Laxman, Kanchan Gore

Health and social scientists

Dr Hemal Shroff, Assistant Professor, School of Health System Studies, Tata Institute for Social Sciences

Dr Anil More, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital