This story is drawn from “Kushinagar,” which appeared originally in French in XXI, no. 13, January/February/March 2011, and will appear in English in Joe Sacco’s new collectionJournalism, to be published by Metropolitan Books on June 19. As Sacco writes, explaining how he came to draw a comic based on his travels in Kushinagar, a district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh:
The extraordinarily successful French magazine XXI is the publishing industry’s greatest champion of comics reportage. It has regularly sent cartoonists out into the world and given them a good deal of magazine space. Editor Patrick de Saint-Exupery, a seasoned journalist himself, was open to any idea I had and supportive at every step of the way. The author Pankaj Mishra passed me along to Indian journalist Piyush Srivastava, who suggested I visit Kushinagar and who graciously agreed to be my guide. We met in Lucknow, where he is based, and drove for a day to reach the district, where many of the dalits—“untouchables”—are experiencing not just abject poverty but real hunger. After three visits to the same hamlet, Piyush and I were essentially chased out of the area by higher caste individuals who did not like us snooping around. We decided to visit other villages, but briefly, for no more than a couple hours each, to avoid the same result.