Friday, March 8, 2019

The Snake and the Lotus - Appupen

This is a work of art. A graphic novel. Appupen has an idea of a perfect world and goes furiously at it, creating intricate graphics and worlds, despairing at how dystopian the world we are living in now is and constantly urging us to get back to nature, our natural selves. The work is so intricate, the thoughts are abstract and it may take a while to get his story. But whatever it does, the sheer effort that goes into his graphic novels, the satire and wit, and the intent cannot be ignored. I am highly impressed by someone who creates for the sake of creating, bringing his idea to the world, and letting the audience make its own sense of it. He does not explain anything. I like the fact that he does not. Figure it out for yourself - he challenges you.

Let me tell you what I figured out after reading it three times. Appupen created the world of Halahala, a universe by itself which is under threat. It starts with the green dying (nature?). people have forgotten their language. Machines have taken over their lives and they are all part of gigantic cities ruled by machines. All, except one girl who retains some humanness.

There is a White City that everyone aspires for. This is the dream, paradise. The city is engaged is producing milk from lotuses - they feed on it. There is a Grey world - of insects, which have a life still. They seem to know that the people are doomed - and they are prone to launch suicide attacks.
The white city is where the godlings live and they strive to be one with their leaders (god). Godlings have a different currency - they work for coins and get pills in return that give them a divine aura. This is pretty much like any decadent civilisation that is ruled by people who think they are godlings.

The girl comes to White city looking for coins. She finds a bunch of them. Having a conscience she returns them to a godling. The godling realises that the girl is a chance o reproduce because all other people have lost their ability to reproduce. She is made the Temple Queen and a rather adult rated ritual takes place.

The godling comes to the Grey area. He needs to get the box to the Central Temple and needs the Queen's help. There is a godling inspector, I think he is the hero of the story. He has a design that requires a box to be taken into the central temple. Only the queen can do it. He fears she is forgetting her abilities but he makes contact - physical contact and for a moment her life courses through him, there is a moment of hope.

The hero makes contact with the grey human (the first godling) and makes him bring out the box under some kind of hypnosis. He makes the grey human put the box someplace where the voice will cease to exist - and then humans wake up. The next day the queen is asked to take the box to the green. The hero invites the green to take over. And the insects and other life forms take over the world telling humans that there is life beyond them. If they do not live with the green, they will be consumed.

The message is clear. Don't mess with nature. Don't think you are all powerful. Nature is bigger than you. It is still not too late. Go back to the natural way. We are all part of this whole.

George Mathen (Appupen) has worked with environmental protection agencies before but he is a compassionate human even without that. I can sense his despair at the way the world is going and he depicts it well in his graphic novel. 'The Snake and the Lotus' is a huge book, carefully thought out and presented. It ends with a warning ' And you will remember all of this.'

It's rare piece of work and must be enjoyed. And admired. 

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