I come from an extremely traditional South Indian family. I was tucked into bed with engineering books, Russian engineering books. I was told that I am going to become an engineer. But, you know, I wanted to become a cartoonist.
So in a sense I negotiated with my dad. I remember he was having his favorite whiskey and I said, “Pop, what’s the purpose of education?” And he became really emotional and he said, “You know, education was highjacked by the industrial revolution.” And he gave me a list of six reasons why education is important.
He said it’s good citizenship. You have to learn how to learn. It’s about curiosity. It’s about working hard. It’s about discipline. He made a whole bunch of good reasons, arguments for education. So I came back to him a couple of months later and I said, “Pop, I’ve agreed with you on everything you’ve said and I am going to do all of this. Can I quit formal education? Can I do this by myself?”
It was a bit of a shock to him but he let me quit school and become a cartoonist. But one of the agreements was that I’m emotionally and financially independent of my family because that’s a part of the whole education process.
So I had to go out there into the real world from this little protected bubble and try to find my own voice. And in doing that I realized that there are different kinds of families. I hitchhiked. I backpacked. I stayed with different kinds of people. And I learned that moms can have tattoos. Dads can be moms. Moms can be dads. And anything can happen and still you can have a loving family.
That’s when I decided that when I have children I’m going to promise to bias them with as many perspectives as possible as opposed to just biasing them with my little understanding of the world. And with this I realized that my art was being a little didactic. I felt the need to incorporate this sort of learning in my art.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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