This article was contributed by Kanan Dhru and Kelly Dhru, two lawyer sisters from Ahmedabad who are working on improving law and governance in India for several years now. They started Lawtoons, a cartoon series about the laws of India, with the goal of making laws and individual rights easier to understand and fun to learn for children (how coool is that?!). By illustrating laws in a series of interesting and inspiring comics, they hope to create a more empowered society in a fun way. Over to Kanan and Kelly.
So we have been working on Lawtoons, a comic series to make laws interesting and fun to learn for kids! Since we crowdfunded to make it happen, the project has been growing from strength to strength! We are super excited to be on this innovative and super creative journey and here’s what we think we have learnt along the way!
~ Kanan and Kelly, two sisters who happen to work together, well!
Lesson#1: There is a fundamental need to make laws simplified and fun!
“If ignorance of law is not an excuse, how can our laws be so complex?”
Does law, by its very definition, have to be so technical? Don’t you think that the laws and rules that govern us have to be simple, so that more people can understand them? Is it possible to talk about legal concepts in any manner other than jargon-filled complex black and white letters?
Even before creating Lawtoons, we have been working with school kids to talk to them about the ideas around laws, rights and democracy! We saw how children lite up the moment we used stories and interactive ways to communicate. But the same information, when it was presented to them in their civics curriculum, they found it dull and boring. How tragic it is, that the information that can make our citizens more informed and empowered, is presented in a way that they don’t even like to read?
Lesson#2: Law can be simplified.
We took on the challenge to create children’s stories that can educate kids and grown-ups about fundamental legal concepts, and touch wood, we have succeeded!
Einstein was right – if you can’t simplify, you don’t understand it well enough!
Those wigs and coats that can intimidate, can also create beautiful stories that can touch the hearts of people. Concepts of law emerge out of day-to-day situations, and the nav-rasas can indeed be blended with the Jurisprudentia. And what’s more – there’s a little bit of a magic that we invite you to come and read! 🙂 After all, the language of visuals and graphics has been with us since the very beginning of human civilization!
Lesson#3: It is all about finding a narrative!
And storytelling is way more complex than you can imagine!
It all started from telling a story – a story that was fun and interesting, for the kids of 10 to 14 years! We had to build the characters that they would like and create a world they would love to play in!
We realized that the best way was to talk to people from different disciplines and most importantly, the kids themselves, who can refine our way of looking at the world from the perspective of a 12 year old!
“Who will explain the laws to Pugloo?” “What should the solution be?” “Who is the antagonist anyway?” “Will people understand these nuances?” And the questions were endless, as we went along finding the right narrative.
Realization # 1: stories are all around us. Realization # 2 : For all stories that sound just about great, there’s a compelling story in opposite direction and has an equal force! Realization # 3: As Buddha said, find a middle path! Between thesis and anti-thesis, there is always the synthesis!
Lesson#4: Cartoonists and illustrators live in a world of their own!
And we love working with them… or we love who we are when we work with them!
Lawtoons was our entry into the world of comics and animation! We did our background readings – looking up comics from different parts of the world, it saw us attending festivals to be able to tell what makes a good graphic novel to even spending time discussing the very idea of what is a ‘comic’, has changed us so much!
We’ve had so much fun getting our right brains working overtime! The creative minds working with us have exposed us to an alternative way of looking at life, to be correct!
During the process of creating Lawtoons, one and a half of the two of us have realised that she is more of an artist than a lawyer! And as Frost said, that has made all the difference.
Lesson#5: When you are working on a good cause, people will support you!
“Sometimes I’ve believed in as many as six impossible things before breakfast”
And for Lawtoons, it has been incredible to see all of them come alive! What began with a simple idea started getting great support from people all around us. Be it in the form of design support from NID to the media support to even encouragement from beyond borders to replicate our work in their local languages! And to top it all, the overwhelming response to the crowdfunding campaigns to make the very idea possible has honestly, kept the khushi ke aansoo (tears of joy) rolling down our cheeks!
Every time, almost every time, the very mention of our work on Lawtoons got the heads nodding! The statements like: “Oh this is extremely important work” or “Children must know what their rights are and what better way than cartoons!” or “Can elders read Lawtoons too?” constantly make us humble and make us realise how powerful the medium of comics is to communicate the essential knowledge of law!