Around Gandhi Jayanti last year, I received a call from BBC Media Action(which is supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation). They wanted me to do around 13 cartoons for 2019 calendar on Swachh Bharat. I was told, they are doing this calendar for the Ministry of drinking water and sanitation. These calendars will be used by the PMO, senior officials of ministries, secretaries and collectors across India.
The mention of PMO rang a bell and I reconfirmed with the agency about picking me for the calendar.
Finally I agreed to do the cartoons for the calendar for few strong reasons.
- I thought Swachh Bharat is a very positive step, which the nation badly needed. (Though I was skeptical about the misuse of the mission for political promotion/publicity)
- Cartoons for 2018 calendar were done by the veteran cartoonist Sudhir Dhar and I have been a huge fan of his cartoons. I thought this is an honour for me to do these cartoons.
- Param Iyer was in charge of Swachh Bharat and I had read lots of positive things about him. I thought this is an opportunity to meet him and interact with him.
- The team of BBC Media Action, who were energetic, very friendly and supportive.
Soon I went to Delhi and had a couple of meetings with Param Iyer and his energetic young team. We somehow finalised most of the cartoon ideas in one hectic day. During the next couple of weeks I got the final ideas and artworks approved from the Swachh Bharat team and submitted the final colored cartoons by November.
I was excited that the agency and the ministry loved my cartoons. And I was happy that I did my little bit for this mission.
I was promised by the agency that I’ll get a copy of the calendar once it’s printed.
I checked with them in January and they said they will get a copy from the ministry. I checked again but they asked me to wait a bit. And then I forgot to chase it and it was totally off my mind.
After many months, on social media I stumbled upon a photo where PM Modi is seen releasing the Swachh Bharat 2019 calendar along with Param Iyer and veteran cartoonist Sudhir Dhar!
And the calendar had cartoons drawn by him!
When I checked with the agency, they were sad about it. They had no answer when I asked what happened after the finalised & approved cartoons were submitted to the ministry!
May be they didn’t like the signature in those cartoons!
Of course I didn’t lose anything. In fact I’m wiser by this experience. These cartoons will anyway reach a wider audience through social media. I’m sharing this post to clean my mind off this strange experience.
Today I take pride in dedicating these cartoons to the man who genuinely cared about Swachh Bharat, Mahatma Gandhi!