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Of Stick Figures and Tongue-In-Cheek Humour – Meet the Creator of ‘Sanitary Panels’

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If you are on desi Facebook, then chances are you’ve either shared a comic strip by Sanitary Panels or at the very least have spotted one while scrolling down your newsfeed. Witty, clever and topical, the comics take on nearly every pertinent social and political issue in the country with a serious sense of humour that makes them hard to ignore.

For Rachita Taneja, creator and artist of the incredibly popular series, Sanitary Panels is about unravelling anything seen as taboo in society. The name of the series itself is a wink at menstruation which is often cloaked in a veil of silence. The human rights campaigner notes that the page came about organically as a response to events unfolding across the country.

It is, as she puts it, an easy and funny way of understanding issues that directly affect us.

sanitary-panels-3Photo source: Facebook 

Her process for creating the panels is simple, but effective. When inspired by something, she uses paper to draw out her comics. Then it is simply a matter of using a high quality scanner and editing the post on her computer.

She reveals that the reason she hasn’t taken to digitally drawing is because she loves the feel of pen on paper.

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Photo source: Facebook 

Her work got a spurt of online attention during the 2016 JNU protests. “At that time, it was very hard to have a meaningful conversation with anybody without getting shut down by the other person,” she says. “Some of my most shared posts came during that period when I was coming out with panels hailing the freedom of speech. Even when people disagreed with me, they shared my posts to let the world know they disagreed with me. The page surged in that period.”

Although Rachita is unapologetic about her opinions she is quick to point out that she is not an expert on all issues. Through Sanitary Panels, she has put the spotlight on female empowerment, women’s rights and mental health, amongst other issues.

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Photo source: Facebook 

“In our society, mental illness is a taboo subject. We just don’t talk about it. Through Sanitary Panels, I am letting people know that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. And that we’re all in this together.”

Since the page is openly vocal about creating a space for dissent, it tends to attract its fair share of critics and abusive trolls. But Rachita is quick to point out that the trolling has not affected her very much. “I have been fortunate enough to not have it affect me in a bad way. The good thing about the page is that I allow comments. Hence if there is someone who disagrees with my point of view, there will be someone who perhaps agrees with my perspective and shall engage accordingly. There is a lot of self-regulating that happens.”

It isn’t just hot button topics that keep fans coming back for more when it comes to her series. Rachita often provides hilarious commentary on what it’s like to be an Indian girl with an overbearing family, dealing with broken bonds and even one’s dysfunctional relationship with pizza.

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Photo source: Facebook

“Find a platform you’re comfortable with.”

Taneja has advice for people looking to create their own space in the online world. “People are looking for opinions, they are looking for good, sharable content on Facebook and other social media platforms,” she says.

“Just find a medium that you are comfortable with and start putting out content. When I started I had maybe 11 likes and I knew my panels were reaching one or two people at the most. But I kept creating new content.”

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Photo source: Facebook 

As far as 2017 is concerned, Taneja hopes to spend more time developing the comic strip. “I want to get more active on instagram and invest more time in Sanitary Panels. I don’t really know yet, but I would like to promote some merchandising, and maybe even start monthly subscriptions. We’ll see how it goes.”

Till then, the rest of us will keep hitting the share button.

You can follow Sanitary Panels here

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