It was one fine afternoon, while I was reading The Telegraph, that I got to know about a webcomic called The Testimonial Comics. By that evening, I had finished all of the strips on the website, and reached out to the creator. As he promised on his website, he wrote back to me. Late June this year, I got back in touch with him after over five years.

Nishant Jain, the artist behind The Testimonial Comics and Rajma Chawal INK, identifies himself as “a writer and a cartoonist”. He currently lives in the US with his wife. He told me that he likes to “make jokes about Bollywood, Indian politics, and the existential dilemma of being in a love/hate relationship with both”.

Beginning

“I’ve been drawing the Testimonial Comics since 2009 when I was in my final year of bachelor’s engineering in Manipal. I continued drawing comics, and occasionally writing humor for Indian TV and YouTube channels, as I did my masters in engineering at the TU Delft in Netherlands.”

He goes on to say that he quit TU Deft in the middle of his PhD to become a full time cartoonist and writer. This was back in 2015.

The first iteration of The Testimonial Comic website had a blurb stating that the website was started after a female friend urged him on. When I state this, Nishant goes on to say the following – “She was one of my best friends in Manipal, which carries the occupational hazard of being the subject of my relentless, unstoppable comedic expressions.”

The name ‘The Testimonial Comics’ came naturally – “And I drew a comic just to freshen things up a bit. It clicked with more people than I imagined, was a lot of fun to do, so I made more comics about more friends. Which led to them being testimonials. And thus the title for the comics.”

Rajma Chawal Lover

As the early comics on The Testimonial Comics would suggest (and even the name Rajma Chawal INK), Nishant is a huge rajma chawal lover, and has been one since he was a child.

“Rajma Chawal was made at home every couple of days for lunch, because it was the one dish both my brother and I enjoyed (we have very different tastes otherwise). It’s the primary motivator behind me learning how to cook. I harshly judge people who don’t like it.”

He also mentioned a name that might have been the banner instead of Rajma Chawal INK – “I was going to go with rajmachawalwala as the new banner, but ink sounds so formal and business-y, so.”

Inspiration

A few of his comics were a tribute to Cyanide and Happiness. Nishant also mentions the other C&H – Calvin and Hobbes – as a comic he loves. “Bill Watterson is my ideological hero, and I grew up reading his comics in the newspapers.”

He goes on to talk about a varied list of comics that he is a fan of – “xkcd is a long time favorite and probably the comic that gave me the confidence that ‘just stick figures’ are still worth it. I really like wondermark for its odd humor and unique art style (since appropriated by many Indian webcomics), and also Hark! A Vagrant, probably my current favorite webcomic. I read a lot of Alan Moore, and Neil gaiman, and Frank Miller now.” When I bring up PhD Comics, he says no single PhD student doesn’t like it.

We go on to talk about the Indian comic scene – “I have all of rk laxmans comics, and consider him the best Indian cartoonist, and one of the greatest in the world.”

He mentions the other Indian webcomics that he follows – “I also like some Indian webcomics such as existential comics (Indian, I think?), Brown paperbag comics, and the works of some friends who are also cartoonists in India.”

Work – Future/Past

Nishant says he wants to draw graphic novels for the rest of his life. He talks about the many stories that he already has in mind, and also how he is developing his skills to do them justice. He has worked on ACHHEDIN (a graphic novel about the rise of the Indian right wing (RSS, BJP), set in a fantasy game of thrones universe) and Deep in Space in the previous year, and has started work on Bollywood Villains Project (a collaboration with BAKARMAX, to tell the untold stories of Bollywood’s real heroes – the villains).

Apparently, Deep in Space “grew out of a single joke I had in my mind – that the Earth would be invaded by aliens and they would fight someone else and leave, never acknowledging or speaking to us at all.”

Childhood / Nishant Before Testimonial

Nishant grew up “surrounded by books”. He mentions his love for Gi Joes (he gave the interview wearing a Gi Joe tee). He mentions how his parents encouraged him to do what he loved – “My father encouraged me to read and play sports, my mother to draw and listen to music. I took from both, and never forgot Calvin and Hobbes.”

Nishant started doing comics only in his final year of college – “I never thought I could draw well enough to make comics, until my final year in college. I hadn’t become good enough then either, but I started believing it was still possible to do it without being ‘good enough’.”

Future

The readers who follow Nishant might already know that he started experimenting with watercolours some time ago. He says he is also experimenting with various pens and brushes.

“I’ve come into serious art all backwards, from the digital realm to the real thing. I learned most of my drawing on my iPad, where I draw all my comics.

The idea of drawing on paper was another thing I was reluctant to do for the longest time. But I use it now as a way to understand the digital brushes better, to learn to draw quickly, and because watercolors are a lot of fun!

In fact, this backward process of learning art has reaped it’s own rewards, as I’ve been able to sell several prints of my watercolor drawings through Instagram.”

When I ask him if he has any plans to include his family in his comics, he says he is not sure, but “I can see myself doing that, especially since my wife is a dentist!”

This is what he has to say to the budding artists – “Stop thinking, just start. If you don’t stop for long enough, you’ll get somewhere good. The only thing you need to do good creative work is good taste and perseverance.”

He is a Game of Thrones fan as well and was looking forward to the Cleganebowl (better luck next season). You can check out his Game of Thrones and other comics here and here. Follow Rajma Chawal INK on Facebook.

All the images displayed belong to Rajma Chawal INK/The Testimonial Comics. We hold no copyright over it and the images have been used with the permission of the said owner.

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