Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Manga Artist Vanquished

That strange Indian head-shake...
How does a foreign entrepreneur-artist experience !ncredible India?

For a quick and dirty introduction to cultural contrasts, there is no better book than Yukichi Yamamatsu's "Stupid Guy Goes to India" (Indo e Baka ga Yatte-kita).

It is the story is a 56-year-old, out-of-work, enterprising graphic artist who - despite all warnings  - decides to sow the seeds of a Manga-book industry in India. With of budget of JPY 1.2 million (~₹ 7 Lakhs / USD 10k) Yamamatsu flies in to Delhi in 2006, to try and publish Hindi translations of a few famous Japanese Manga books.

The author also happens to be a cancer survivor with a missing sigmoid colon, resulting in very weak bowels. In a country suffering a chronic shortage of usable public toilets, this becomes a formidable handicap. In spite of all odds, he rents a one-room-set in North East Delhi for ~₹ 5,000 / month and starts looking for translators, assistants, publishers and then, finally, retailers for selling the books.

As expected, he encounters all the troubles that beset foreigners to India -- dishonest, agressive auto-wallah's, beggars, filthy streets, and that strange Indian way of shaking heads to convey everything from consent to directions, and disdain. And then there are other spectrum of experiences that are reserved for only the most daring of Japanese visitor -- winning the odds at the Race Course, trying to hawk books at the second-hand market for books at Daryaganj, attempting to start art classes, a dabble in FMCG (cello-tape dispensers), and the grand finale - a visit to the prostitutes at GB Road!

Unfortunately, this is not a book with a happy ending. In the end Yamamatsu's efforts come to naught. He finds no takers for his translated Manga's or his tape-dispensers, and he leaves six months later with the question - "Even though there are countries where masses of people are illiterate, is there any nation so idiotic that they won't look at easy-to-understand, easy-to-read Manga?"

The sad part about this book is that it merely reinforces the incredulous, negative image of India. Its leaves you with yet another predictable glimpse of the yawning cultural gap that separates India and Japan.

And yet, it is certainly a book worth reading. Yamamatsu may not have succeeded in translating Manga into Hindi but Kumar Sivasubramanian does a fine job of translating the book from Japanese into English. Small mercies.


* Yamamatsu Yukichi (2006): Stupid Guy Goes to India (Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian 2011), Blaft-Tranquebar 2011
* 2012 book review - DNA -
* 2012 Book Review - The Hindu -

Chocho Michimichimichi = Tokyo Mitsubishi! :)

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