Graphic Novel 'Terminal 3' Is An Ode To The Hopes & Dreams Of The Kashmiri People

Pages from Debasmita Dasgupta's graphic novel Terminal 3
Debasmita Dasgupta

Are our dreams dictated by the place of our birth? Sadly, yes. For instance, an American child born into a life of privilege dreams of owning a Bugatti or going to Harvard while a child of the same age from war-torn Gaza dreams of bread and escaping the enemy’s missiles. We need not even look so far geographically. Much closer to home is Kashmir, often hailed as Paradise on Earth for its scenic beauty, which has been tragically enshrouded in chaos and conflict for ages. But does that prevent its inhabitants from dreaming similar dreams to those who were brought amidst peaceful surroundings? The lived experiences of the people of Kashmir differ from ours but that does not take away their right to dream.

Debasmita Dasgupta, a talented graphic novelist, illustrator, and film producer, originally from Kolkata, now based in the UK, explores the collective right of the people of Kashmir to dream and how much arduous struggle they undergo to realize that dream in her graphic novel, Terminal 3, published by Penguin India. This collective right to dream of the people of Kashmir is condensed through the journey of the story’s protagonist, a 17-year-old girl named Khwab Nazir. It's August 2019 as Khwab waits at Terminal 3 of New Delhi International Airport, with a knot of nerves twisting in her stomach, to board a flight that has been delayed. She can't even call back home because the abrogation of Article 370 means that Kashmir has been flung into a connectivity black hole.

Set to realize her dream of representing India at an international jiu-jitsu tournament, Khwad the story unfolds as she nervously reflects on her uncertain future and childhood spent in the valley. Growing up in Kashmir, she navigates a life teetering between fleeting moments of joy and crushing hardship. The weight of her past presses down on her throughout a story woven with loss, resilience, and a yearning for a brighter future. Terminal 3 is more than just a travel hub; it's a metaphor for the everyday people of Kashmir who constantly strive to achieve their dreams against a backdrop of turmoil. Their stories, like Khwab's, are testaments to an unwavering human spirit.

A page from Debasmita Dasgupta's graphic novel Terminal 3
Page 72 of the graphic novel 'Terminal 3'Debasmita Dasgupta

"The seed idea for Terminal 3 germinated in 2013 when I created a passion project, a Facebook page called ‘My Father Illustrations’, to feature stories of fathers defending the rights of their daughters from across the globe. Some stories I found, some stories found me. With every discovery, my desire to create art kept growing — I’ve shared nearly 350 illustrated stories of fathers and daughters from 54 countries. During that time, one day, I came across the story of Tajamul Islam, a kickboxer from Kashmir’s Bandipora district, and how her father had supported her. That was the beginning of Khwab’s story, which finally took the shape of Terminal 3."

Debasmita Dasgupta, in an interview with Homegrown

What I find most fascinating is the colour palette Debasmita employs in the graphic novel. More often than not, Kashmir is associated with mournful shades of grey and indigo to expound upon the tragedy of the land and its people. However, the author chooses a different visual grammar even though her novel has thorough depictions of how difficult life can be in Kashmir. She uses vibrant shades of pink and tangerine which creates an expressionist pop-art style. It is reflective of Khawb’s resilient spirit even in the face of unsurmountable odds. It also drives home the importance of associating Kashmir with things (in this case, sports) beyond violence. Her artwork in the novel also displays her mastery of recreating stylistic nuances such as the kashida embroidery and ornate deodar architecture popular in the Valley.

A page from Debasmita Dasgupta's graphic novel Terminal 3
Page 15 of the graphic novel 'Terminal 3'Debasmita Dasgupta

"To begin with, I sourced a lot of photographs, did quite a few in-depth interviews, conducted a year-long secondary research plus I watched a lot of videos of women in martial arts in the Valley. Because of my background in filmmaking, I draw a lot of storyboards. So the illustration style in this book is very much like cinematography: frame to frame, moment to moment, page to page. In terms of my visual style, as a child, I was always very inspired by Jamini Roy’s paintings, which have big eyes. These influences are heavily visible in the book. The textures you see in the hand-painted illustrations are integrated digitally. The outfits worn by the characters are real. I photographed the Pashmina shawl, and the kaftans, which are real Kashmiri clothes, and integrated them into my story. The illustration you see in Terminal 3 is my signature style in a way, especially the bold use of colors and the prominent facial features of the characters."

Debasmita Dasgupta, in an interview with Homegrown

A page from Debasmita Dasgupta's graphic novel Terminal 3
Page 103 of the graphic novel 'Terminal 3'Debasmita Dasgupta

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