Stuck between two lives...

Ambika Shaligram
Tuesday, 17 April 2018

In conversation with Percy Bharucha, creator of comic strip The Adult Manual.  He says that his humour comes from the life he wants to lead and the one he is forced to 

A marketing professional with a publishing house wanted to rant a bit. Instead of writing, he drew. That was how The Adult Manual, a comic strip created by Percy Bharucha, began its journey. An admirer of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, The Oatmeal, Existential Comics, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Bizzaro, Bharucha believes that his comic strip is based on the juxtaposition between the ideal and mundane reality. More about the artist and his work...

You studied account planning. And, also humanities and social sciences. Can we say that The Adult Manual’s origins lie in your arts background?
The answer would be both yes and no. The origins of The Adult Manual lie very much in the grappling of the big questions one suddenly starts to ask the moment after one has finished studying and begun working.

In my opinion, the arts background provides an essential framework to address those very questions. So in a way the questions always existed and the background provided various opportunities to engage with them through various subjects.

How and when did it start off?
It started in July 2017 when I found myself with too much time to kill. I had always wanted to draw and sketch so I found myself sitting one day with paper and pencil and the first strip just came out of nowhere. I had been wanting to rant about something or the other and I found myself drawing it out rather than writing. From then it was just about finding the time to sit and be consistent about it. It became one of the only few constants of my life.

The accompanying text is quite well thought out too. Do the words come first or the visuals?
The visuals always come first. And then I find a way to make it sound rather “important” and “life-changing” through the words. A really good cartoonist would be able to provide the relevant context within the strip, I haven’t been able to simplify it to that extent yet. Also since I’m too lazy to draw three panels, I can’t show the progression of an action or event in just one panel. So in a way I rely on the words to set up the joke. 

The panels are uploaded on Facebook on Tuesdays and Fridays. Is that because of your work schedule?
Yes in a major way. I draw most of my strips the evening/night before my deadline. So if it were Monday then I’d ruin my weekend coming up with it and thinking about it.
I never wanted to post on the weekend because most people are looking to escape the gloom and I was sure my stuff would mostly be a buzzkill. So I prefer to post during the week, when everybody’s pissed off and can totally relate to it.

Is your corporate life your muse for The Adult Panel?
My personal sense of humour lies some where in that ironic moment where you’re stuck in a three-hour long meeting about improving workplace productivity and you want to yell, “This, this right here”, when your whole education starts flashing before your eyes.

I think the source of all my humour is being stuck between the two lives, the life you want to lead and the life you’re forced to. That juxtaposition between the ideal and mundane reality, is what gives rise to The Adult Manual.

What about the politicians who used to be the mainstay of the cartoonists work in the past?
I think over the years comics have become more personal. It’s more relatable or funny to laugh at something that you’re going through at a personal level, than a hilarious take on what somebody else said.

As far as I’m concerned, I think political cartoons require far more research and you’ve to be very careful about framing them correctly. Without that amount of in-depth knowledge and research, it then devolves to simply caricaturing.

Any interesting feedback that you have got so far?
I wouldn’t call it feedback but a friend once wrote to me telling me about how he loved the comic and how he’d download the images and shown them to people at work as his own. He added I shouldn’t stop as it was helping him socialise. Which, of course, I found hilarious. Obviously, he was only kidding about passing it off as his work, but still it helps being told that your work is one of the few things people look forward to on Facebook now.
Also a few readers keep telling me about how it helps them learn about philosophy and I should include reference links. So I try and do that as well.

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