Kari’s core heroine is a lesbian. It’s a masterpiece by Amruta Patil, a phenomenally brilliant graphic novelist. But Kari is more than just a lesbian graphic novel. It is a perspective on the type of society we live in. It demonstrates to the readers how society assumes particular things and attempts to shape us as humans.
It is a highly affecting story about searching for oneself in a progressively dominant society riven by difference and prejudice. Unlike previous prominent lesbian depictions such as Deepa Mehta’s Fire or Ismat Chughtai’s Lihaaf, the story takes place in a major metropolis and reads in a modern style. Each of these stories takes place mainly in the private domain, although Kari takes place in both the private and public venues of the city.
The book attempts to depict the lived experiences of a gay woman in heterosexual culture.
While the visual representations in a city hint at a specific region, Kari might be located anywhere on the planet. The evasiveness with which the topic of sexual orientation is addressed, particularly at the opening of the book, is reminiscent of Chughtai’s Lihaaf.
The narrative opens with the intended double suicide of two lovers, Kari, our protagonist, and Ruth, her lover. Following this incident, Kari and Ruth are separated by a chronology of activities. It appears that the entire work is concentrated on Kari’s estrangement in some way after she is parted from Ruth.
The graphic book tells the story of Kari after she finds herself alone in the heterosexual culture surrounding her and the mental torment she experiences as a result of her split from Ruth, all set against the overwhelmingly heterosexual cultural heritage of the metropolis. The normalized and predominant character of heterosexuality in our daily lives is evident in various parts of the novel. Still, one that sticks out for the reader is an encounter involving Kari and her housemates’ boyfriends.
They advise Kari to look for an appropriate guy for herself. One of them would be adamant that “ultimately a girl needs a guy and a man needs a girl.”
Another example is when a character named Lazarus asks Kari if she is a “real” lesbian.
This seemingly harmless question reflects the normalization of heterosexuality, in which non-heterosexual desire and behaviour are entirely ignored and essentially eradicated.
Patil’s Kari is a significant reveal of how a city that seems to be contemporary and modern nonetheless harbours a predominantly heterosexual perspective of society. In the “smog city,” she invokes the concept of suffocation. This analogy indicates Kari’s dissatisfaction and may allude to the smothering aspect of heteronormativity in this urban city.
Most of all, as a reader, this book will leave you with two important thoughts to ponder.
The fight to understand oneself in this climate of supremacy is brilliantly represented and lingers with the reader via Kari’s ongoing search for herself as a woman, her defiance against conventional and imposed concepts of femininity.
It causes the reader to consider their place in society and any inherent biases they may have. The second point to mention is the depicted friendship. Friends are a recurring subject in the work, whether it’s Kari reflecting about her time with Ruth or Angel and Kari’s beautiful relationship, which leaves an impression on the reader.