TW: Mentions of rape
Priya and the Wolves is a retelling of the ancient fairytale Little Red Riding Hood, set in India during the height of the Covid-19 outbreak when millions of migrants returned to their communities. Many women and young girls were targeted by sex traffickers who wanted to take advantage of the situation. The comic has been written by Ruchira Gupta and designed by Melanconnie. Apne Aap Women Worldwide has provided the funding for the comic.
Hinduism and its imagery are omnipresent throughout India. Across the country, images of Goddess Durga sitting atop a tiger may indeed be found in homes, business centres and places of worship. This image has been referenced and transformed in the fairytale project by creating an image of Priya sitting on a tiger —signifying Priya conquering her anxieties.
Priya is a rape survivor and driver of change in our comic book. The objective is to turn Priya and the tiger picture into a strong symbol for ending gender-based violence. The most important thing about Priya’s character is that she is India’s first female comic superhero who has risen from difficult circumstances.
Priya symbolises the Indian woman who struggles to gain respect in society. The society, through some way or the other, finds a way to target women for its selfish benefit. Priya’s character is a representation of a woman who has risen from her own feebleness, and come out strong and brave.
The comic Priya and the Wolves focuses on the condition of women amidst Covid. The outbreak of the virus has made life difficult for people. Due to the rapid increase in the spread of the coronavirus, the government declared a nation-wide lockdown and thus, many workers lost their jobs. Even public transportation was curbed and as a result, thousands of migrants were walking for days to return to their villages.
Moreover, the lockdown had a devastating impact on women and children living in slum areas and red light districts of India. The comic highlights one such situation, wherein a woman is going back to her village along with her children. They are hungry and tired so they decide to rest near a truckers stop. The woman instructs her daughter to keep wearing her mask and not leave the cart in any condition.
Despite her mother’s warning, the girl goes around in search of food. At that moment, a truck driver arrives and lures the girl by saying that he would provide her with food if she comes along with him. The comic effectively illustrates the fear on the girl’s face and the evil intentions in the eyes of the truck driver. The comic interestingly proceeds with the entry of Priya and her tiger, and they prevent the girl from falling into the trap set by the driver who was trying to kidnap the girl.
In the comic, the truck drivers are like the cunning wolves who lure women and girls, kidnap them and sell them to brothels in return for money. As a result of the lockdown, such cases have drastically increased. Many women have been compelled to fall in such a trap so that they can earn money and get food for their family members who have been starving for days. During such times of difficulties, 1 Million Meals quenched the thirst of many people in need. By writing this comic, Ruchira Gupta, who is the founder of Apne Aap, wishes to encourage girls that all women are a form of goddess, with real power and bravery deep down in their heart.
1 Million meals and Apne Aap work for the upliftment of females by conveying the moral of the Priya and the Wolves comic and other books with Priya’s character, who is a symbol of power and courage to girls. Towards the end, the writer wishes that the magical world in literature where women are respected becomes a reality where women are celebrated right from their birth and granted the freedom to live in the d of Mother Earth. The reason to call Earth our Mother also relates the moral to encourage women.