In 1873, Jotiba Phule (1827-1890) wrote Gulamgiri (Slavery) and dedicated it to the good people of United States of America for their battle against slavery. Phule believed, likewise, in the emancipation of “shudras and atishudras” in the subcontinent and wrote a scathing attack on the vedas being idle fantasies of the brahman mind.

A hundred and forty years later, Srividya Natarajan and Aparajita Ninan re-envision Phule’s imagination, weaving the story of his partner Savitribai into his struggles, in the form of a graphic novel titled A Gardener in the Wasteland. Excerpts:

Excerpted with permission from A Gardener in the Wasteland: Jotiba Phule’s Fight for Liberty, story by Srividya Natarajan, art by Aparajita Ninan, Navayana Publishing.