In March 2020, during the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation to show gratitude to doctors, paramedics, police, and other personnel associated with essential services by giving them a five-minute standing ovation by clapping hands, beating plates, and ringing bells (India Today 2020). However, most people misunderstood these instructions and started celebrating the announcement of gratitude. There was even misinformation spreading that clapping together will produce ‘vibrations’ in the atmosphere that would kill the virus (Kundu 2020). Following this, people began gathering and celebrating across many parts of the country, breaching social distancing norms. As a result, the number of COVID-19 cases rose to alarming rates across most parts of the country (Rizvi 2020). This incident is a clear example of members of the public disregarding pandemic health guidelines from authorities and government experts. Ironically, this created more stress for the healthcare and essential workers. This could have been avoided if the prime minister had given more detail and instructions on how to safely maintain social distancing while displaying this gratitude. This incident has inspired me to make a comic because it had a humorous aspect at a time when most news was negative and discouraging. Many funny videos of people celebrating and beating utensils, went viral, including a popular song remix of politicians shouting, “Go Corona!”
Behind the scene
During our COVID-19, Comic and Me Workshop hosted by our professor Dr. Anna Feigenbaum, we were taught how to turn ideas into comics for effective public health messaging. Following the instructions, I first gathered information from various sources and made a rough storyboard narrating the incident. I made use of communication bubbles to express the character’s conversations and emotions.
The storyboard was made up of 4 scenes. Each scene represents each panel of the comic template. The opening panel describes The Prime minister addressing the nation through media to show gratitude. The second panel is about two confused characters sharing misinformation about ‘clapping kills the virus’ through social media. The third panel is about people gathering together and celebrating gratitude without any social distancing. The final panel is about the after-effects of this incident, which include the rise in covid cases and people panicking.
After the storyboard was complete, I started making the final comic in a detailed way. Initially, I planned to use pre-created cartoon characters for the comic template, but due to copyright and ethical considerations, I used Paint pro software to draw and create the entire characters and comic template digitally.
Medibang Paint Pro is a free digital drawing and comic creating software somewhat similar to Microsoft Paint but has more features and flexibility. The entire comic was drawn using the computer mouse as a result, it was time-consuming and some flawing in drawing can be observed.
The final comic
After merging all the comic panels together in Adobe Photoshop, the final draft of the comic was created.
India Today., 2020. Clap, whistle, ring: PM Modi’s mantra on how you can thank those working 24 hours during the Covind-19 outbreak. India Today [online]. 19 March 2020. Available from: https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pm-modi-speech-on-coronavirus-thank-corona-warriors-1657591-2020-03-19 [Accessed 23 January 2022].
Kundu, C., 2020. Fact Check: No, clapping together at 5 pm during Janta curfew will not kill coronavirus. India Today [online]. 22 March 2020. Available from: https://www.indiatoday.in/fact-check/story/fact-check-no-clapping-together-at-5-pm-during-janta-curfew-will-not-kill-coronavirus-1658438-2020-03-22 [ Accessed 23 January 2022].
Rizvi S., 2020. Clapping to slapping — India did everything other than social distancing this week. The Print [online]. 28 March 2020. Available from: https://theprint.in/opinion/newsmaker-of-the-week/india-did-everything-other-than-social-distancing/389778/ [Accessed 23 January 2022].