No Coincidences July 05 2015

After a long break, we're back to our first love, comics... and we wanted to glance back one last time, before we surge ahead into the unknown.

A few days ago, Tina and I were at our friend Esther's wedding reception and that got me thinking about our journey in comics from 2009 to where we are now. In many ways, it was Esther who sent us down a path that has brought us to where we are today, and looking back, it feels strange to see how the dots connect.

The short version: There are no coincidences.

The longer version goes something like this:

Before Kokaachi, there was Manta Ray, which Dileep & I started in August 2009. It would take another 18 months for my first comic script and Rajiv Eipe's black & white illustrations to come together in Hush.

Hush featured two tribute posters, from Prabha Mallya and Manoj A. Menon.

I first met Prabha when our paths crossed briefly in 2008 at a mobile-storytelling start-up where I was working. (The unexpected shutdown of said start-up left me unemployed for 9 months and led to Manta Ray). Two years later, Prabha was back in Bangalore, she did this poster and would go on to become an amazing illustrator & storyteller, and Manta Ray's Art Director.

Tina and I met on a Cochin-bound train in April 2010 (I was going for Dileep's wedding). We were two strangers on either end of a side-berth, who shared a common passion for stories, storytelling and writing, and discovered that we also shared the same birth date, albeit 4 years apart.


We lost touch after that journey, but a year later, we met again at the Hush signing event at Goobes, Bangalore. Before the end of 2011 we would be married, and Tina also came aboard Manta Ray, and spearheaded the creation and release of our Mixtape 1 digital experiment.

Mixtape 1 found it's way into the hands of Savitha, a twenty-year-old student at the Asian College of Journalism, who then shared it with her roommate. Her roommate loved one of the stories in it so much that she printed it out and put it up on her pin-up board.

Who was this roommate? Esther Elias, who joined The Hindu's Chennai Bureau soon after.

A few months after reading Rather Lovely Thing, Esther pitched her Editor a story on Manta Ray for the paper's Metroplus supplement, but we actually ended up gracing The Hindu Sunday Magazine!

Meanwhile, in another corner of the universe, two young men chanced upon Mixtape and Hush at Blossom Bookstore, and picked it up for the library of a cafe they were starting in Kochi. Strangely, Esther had also moved back to Kochi, saw the books on one of her visits to the newly-opened Papaya Cafe, and... Bam! The next thing we knew, we were releasing Mixtape 2 at Papaya.

But little did we know that a few months later, all of this would go to hell. Almost three years after Hush's release, our Manta Ray story came to an end. The actual shutting down would be long and languorous process, but it was done.

"Never start a business with a friend," a CA had advised me in August of 2009, when we were starting MaRa. "Who will you start a business with, if not your friend?" countered Soma, my mentor, who'd also told me to "Go start Manta Ray," and backed me in that most important decision I'd taken.

Despite the fact that Dileep and I had to part ways, I don't regret having started Manta Ray. We'd started something good, and rather than give up on that common dream, we decided to go forward with it, in our own separate ways.

In early 2014, Tina and I started Kokaachi, to continue the comics that we'd created at Manta Ray. But, the universe had different plans for us and it turned out to be a rather long detour.

It came in the shape of Aashiq Abu's Gangster, for which we teamed up with our friends at Dreamcatcher to create the animated sequences that opened and closed the film.

And then, a few months later, beyond our wildest, wildest dreams, a call came from Madras Talkies. The next thing we knew, we were working with Mani Ratnam in OK Kanmani on four of the animated sequences in the movie (in collaboration with Dreamcatcher, Firefly and Splat).

That one really stupefied us... in fact, it still does.


Dileep used to say: The universe is wiser.

Looking back, that's the only way we can make sense of this - awesome - sometimes scary - many times risky - always worth it - journey we've taken to get here.

And now, looking forward...