A vertical scroll, this comic tapestry begins with the ominous claim, “Duniya khatm hone wali hai.”A death star is about to strike, and Pintoo, a child in Benaras under the watchful gaze of a red, ballooning moon, is craving his last wish, a Karejwa- a juicy, delicate, hot, melt-in-your-mouth Gulab Jamun, arguably India’s best sweet.
At first glance, the comic scroll is about the odyssey of this young kid, from his home through crowds of rioters, and cows, to the sweetshop. But of course, there is the more pensive question- if life were to cease, what would you want your last memory to be? For Pintoo’s mother, it is her classroom as a child. For his grandmother, a visit to the Ganga, and for him, the juicy, decadent “sugam sangeet” of chashni, doodh, and khoya.
At another level, the choice of the sweet, Gulab Jamun, is curious, for it has both Mughal and Aryan sensibilities of sooji and doodh, respectively. Grover’s commentary about Indian heritage being a mix of both imported and indigenous is quite clear- everything Indian has become that after centuries of mixing with migrants who chose to stay and make a home here, shedding their migrant status, and becoming Indian. It’s also a veiled attack at those who are “vocal about local”; a world that is insular, is a world that wouldn’t have produced the gulab jamun. What else are we depriving our future selves of, by quitting the freeflow of cultures and cuisines? (Think of the poor street vendors of “Chinese” Food, and the ignorant, entitled Indians boycotting their own economy.)
What starts off with the star spangled sky, and the loopy sandstorms on Saturn’s surface, becomes an Earthbound tale of Modi-Shah perhaps fleeing the Earth for their security, leaving the country in riots and ruins, while the Hindu Mahasabha chief promotes gau-mutra as an antidote to extinction, and teachers articulate the Flat-Earth theory as fact. Grover’s politics in his art has never been this obvious, his metaphors never more clear; the act of scrolling down, a symbol of the race to the bottom of the Twitter cesspool, is co-opted. You don’t flip and forget, you scroll and satire.