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book>> Our toxic world, A guide to hazardous substances in our everyday lives • Script Aniruddha Sen Gupta • Illustrations Priya Kurian • Toxics Link and Sage • Rs 395

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

 book>> Our toxic world, A guide to hazardous substances in our everyday lives • Script Aniruddha Sen Gupta • Illustrations Priya Kurian • Toxics Link and Sage • Rs 395

The Sachdevas are a typical West Delhi middle-class family. Mohanlal is an inspector of boilers in factories. Rajeshwari looks after the home. Their son Prasad is a budding architect, daughter Anamika a high school student. The introduction to the Sachdeva family would be incomplete without mentioning Bindu, their house-help and Imtiaz who drives Mohanlal to places in his autorickshaw.

Our Toxic World, a guide to hazardous substances in our everyday lives, seems an unlikely name for a comic book that brings the Sachdeva family to us.
   

It tells the story of the Sachdevas while taking a close look at the cocktail of toxic substances they are scarcely aware of.

Prasad uses the Metro rail for his daily commute but dreads the rickshaw ride back home from the station. It is a short route but Prasad almost always ends up wheezing. Anamika is often sick and Bindu complains no matter how much she tries she can’t keep away dust.

It is all in the air, the soil and the water, a cocktail of deadly substances: lead, electronic waste, persistent organic pollutants. It is there in items all around the Sachdevas—and us—eggs, toys, paints, fire crackers.

Illustrator Priya Kurian and scriptwriter Aniruddha Sen Gupta do a neat job of highlighting the Sachdevas’ predicament. But one-page breaks, detailing the toxins, disturb the flow. It seems the Toxics Link pedant—the non-profit in Delhi is among the publishers of the book—has taken over from the artist and the storyteller.

It is not to say the information in the one-pagers is not useful. Some of it is definitely so. The comparison on different fuels, for example. But this reviewer would rather read the comics. Information details interrupt the mood.

It is only later in the book that the one-pagers find a protagonist: Madhavi, an activist and Prasad’s friend seeking information on sezs from Mohanlal. The best part of the book has to do with the interaction between the activist and Rajeshwari about the poison lurking in items of daily use. But the way Madhavi takes over and addresses Anamika’s school function appears forced.

The criticism should not undermine the book’s significance. Communicating environmental issues means wading through arcane jargon. The comic strips show the issues can be communicated. It is perhaps the complexity of the task that makes the endeavour jar at places.

Mridul Prabhakar is a development communicator in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

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