Stories of hope and anxiety win at Karuna Stories contest

The winning visual narratives chronicle the covid times

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An architect, a spaceship designer, an Indo-Dutch studio and a communication designer built a platform for visual storytellers in form of a competition—Karuna Stories contest, and invited entries that could introduce a sliver of hope in these times. An initiative by Olive Ridley collective, Karuna Stories gathered support from the best design institutions of the country including National institute of Design and Association of Designers in India. Hundreds of creatives and visual storytellers submitted their entries, of which three winners were chosen. These winners have won a cash prize and are also being mentored by the best designers in the industry, with whom they will be working on another story. All the stories will be published in an anthology. Here are the three winning stories for you.

Illustrator, Shubhshree Mathur’s story, Mutthmaila, takes us to a time when physicality, surfaces and contact were not gauged in germs, infection and diseases. There was pleasure in playing and rolling in mud without a care in the world. Shubhshree recreated the playfield of her childhood in Kota, Rajasthan, for the Karuna Stories contest, and won first place for this endearing story that gives us something to smile about in these times. Mutthmaila is about a loved time when the world was not paranoid of touching surfaces, when parents were not fearful of letting their childred play outdoors, and kids spent hours touching different materials with their hands. Snapshotting the carefree life she led, Shubhshree created delightful, carefree story with illustrations and a poem.

Above: Pages from the winning story by Shubhshree Mathur, Mutthmaila

We often forget the fear and trepidation in the hearts of elderly amidst a pandemic in which they are the most vulnerable. Consider those elders who live alone, separated from their children, and surrounded by wild speculations about a deadly virus. Illustrator and storyteller, Priyankar Gupta’s Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, reaches deep into the disquieting worries of an elderly couple paranoid about the virus and unable to reach their son who is largely absent. It brings about a brilliant contrast between the anxious father and his wife, withdrawn from the media and relatively calm. It leaves us aching and rooting for this senior couple, and millions of other senior citizens, braving this pandemic all alone. This story won second prize in Karuna Stories competition.

Above: Pages from Father, Son and the Holy Ghost by Priyankar Gupta

Months long enforced incarceration of children is one of the most brutal aspects of the lockdown. Captivated in their houses and not allowed to go to school, tuitions, meet or play with their friends, their worlds have come to a rude halt. Add to it the unexplainable burden of using face masks, paranoia with touch and endless hours on screen to educate themselves—the pandemic has been tough for the kids. For Dora ki Dori, their entry in Karuna Stories, Sheetal Paul and Ishtha Kapoor delved deep into the psychology of children, and a mother’s struggle to come up with inventive ways to keep her child occupied. The story also depicts how the pandemic has taken a toll on children and elderly.

Pages from Dora ki Dori, story that won the third prize in the Karuna Stories

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Read all the winning stories here.

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