Illustrator / Graphic Designer
It’s difficult to fight for something you believe in, to stand without fear against the power of the establishment, to dedicate your entire life for a cause, and to lead by example. The fight is even more difficult when you’re a woman. For our next Taxi Fabric, designer Kruttika Susarla chose to celebrate such women, who’ve been fighting social and patriarchal fires all their lives.
Speaking of her design she says, “A lot of dialogue about feminism in India always happens around and is targeted towards the working urban middle class women. While this is great and should not stop, I think it’s also important to note that there are women who come from really oppressed backgrounds, who’ve been fighting very bravely for themselves and others in their community and yet somehow we never read or hear their stories. Normally, I’d have thought of making a comic or a series of illustrations but with an auto, the canvas becomes much bigger. The kind of people who’d now read about these women would have never had access to something like a comic or a poster.
She decided to name her design ‘Celebrating Women Leaders’ because she felt that ‘It’s important for young girls to have women role models’. She further elaborates, “When we think of ‘leaders’, be it our freedom fighters or people who’re fighting for us in 2016, which are the names that first come to mind? Gandhi? Bhagat Singh? There were so many women who’ve fought independently and alongside the names we remember. Why do we not celebrate them? Why do our textbooks not talk about them? Why do mainstream news and media not share stories of their struggle and success?
Kruttika feels that while an auto-rickshaw as a canvas is much bigger in terms of its reach, she felt the same canvas was physically small as she couldn’t decide how much information to include, both visually and in the text, about each of these women.
“One of the biggest challenges for me was figuring out what part of their stories to not include because it all seemed so relevant to fully understand what their fights were about!”
Kruttika started her career as a freelance designer and her own challenges were no different than those faced by most young designers in our country.
“One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started working was saying no to clients or projects that would suck the soul out of me but not necessarily help me grow monetarily or as a designer. I've recently taken a conscious step towards saying no to more projects which then gives me the time to get to all these to-do lists of projects that I've been planning to do for myself.”
Speaking of what influence Delhi has had on her design she says, “Delhi, being the political capital, has also been the centre of a lot of social revolution and protests. Feminism in India is very political in nature and the women and organisations represented in the illustrations come from an oppressed background and are from different parts of the country—thereby capturing the essence of being the representative of the diversity that exists here.”
While the rickshaw driver wasn’t directly involved in the design process, Kruttika was happy to learn that he immediately connected with the idea.
“My conversation with Gagan, the auto driver was rather interesting. He was a part of a group of drivers who were trained by the Manas foundation in Delhi to be sensitive about gender issues and women’s safety in general. During our conversation, he immediately connected with the idea behind celebrating these women which was one of the most important and happiest takeaways for me from this whole exercise. I really hope that passengers who travel in his auto connect with them at some level as well.”
Kruttika’s design beautifully illustrates and introduces the passenger to three of the most iconic women leaders of our times: Savitribai Phule, Irom Sharmila and Soni Sori. We really hope that her design succeeds in reaching out to as many people as possible, because these are stories that need to be told and heard.
Oh, when we asked what advice she’d like to give to fellow designers, all she said was, “Werk werk werk werk werk werk”. Well, fair advice we’d say.
Photographs by Sanskar Sawant & Pulak Bhatnagar
This Taxi Fabric Project is supported by Manas Foundation Delhi and Indraprastha Gas Limited.