In Conversation with Mr. Morshed Mishu: Drawing Outside the Box

Nafisa Islam

Feb 15, 2022


Overcoming the Odds is a blog series brought to you by volunteer writer Nafisa Islam from IYAP Bangladesh. This series aims at exploring and sharing the inspiring stories of famous personalities in Bangladesh, who have overcome several mental health related struggles in their early life and emerged successful after walking along the path of their passions and dreams with courage and determination.

Morshed Mishu is a Bangladeshi cartoonist by profession and has been listed under ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ in the year 2019. This is an inspiring moment with him.

Hello Mishu! Hope you have been having a great day! Thank you Mishu for taking some time off from your busy schedule to answer a few questions about your life!

01. Could you tell us about an average day in your life?

An average day in my life starts randomly, not always with a plan. I set the alarm to wake up very early in the morning, the alarm goes off and I get up after five more minutes of sleep. I do office work, finish projects of my clients, think about my own projects, hang out with friends at tea shops and I wander along the streets in search of ideas. I try to live the day, I try to enjoy my life. I think of going to bed early at night and waking up early in the morning. I set the alarm and go to bed at midnight. That is more like a day in my life!

02. Describe yourself in 3 words.

Creative, rebellious, empathetic.

03. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I think my biggest strength and weakness are the same: I’m emotional. With time, I’ve learned to use my weakness as my strength… My artistic soul has helped me a lot during the process.

04. While doing research, I got to know that you have had your own share of mental health struggles earlier in your life. What kind of struggles were you going through? What kind of negative feelings or experiences have you had in your early life?

In fact, I have gone through a lot of frustration due to many conventional reasons: personal reasons, family reasons, emotional factors etc..  The biggest personal reason I suffered from depression was the failure to fulfill the only dream of my life, which was to join the Bangladesh Defense Force. It was always a dream: joining the air force or the army.  After trying unsuccessfully to join the forces, I became frustrated. I started to break down mentally.  At that time I didn’t understand what mental health was anymore, I just understood that I was upset.  Gradually I realized that such negative feelings could be harmful to my health. Then gradually, I started to get myself out of this phase with the help of my family and friends. Also, UNMAD (UNMAD is a comic magazine) helped me bring myself to a stable position, in this situation. I started drawing cartoons and joined the frenzy.

05. How important do you think it is, to go for help, regarding mental health issues/seek mental health support?

We don’t care as much about our mental health as we care about our physical well being. Mind and body complement each other, if one is not in good health,  it will definitely affect the other. So, it is important to seek the help of mental health experts when it comes to mental health.  Talking to someone who is trustworthy, talking about the matter with someone who will take it seriously could also help: it can be a family member, a friend, a close brother or sister and it can even be a complete stranger, at times.  Trying to  engage yourself  in various positive activities to develop a sense of positivity or develop yourself would also be of use. For example, one day, I noticed that I was depressed for a personal reason.  I could not handle it. I took myself to the gym one day, started a workout… I can’t say that the depression was completely gone, but seeing the improvement in my body, I started to feel better. Our positive energy would channel out the inner negativity.

06. I believe that identifying your passions and working with determination, courage and confidence has helped you overcome these challenges and achieve all this success. So, now let’s talk about your journey and how you have come a long way so far. So, you are a cartoonist by profession. What projects are you working on right now?

There are multiple projects that I am working on at the moment and several responsibilities that I am shouldering. You will be able to get to see my upcoming work soon in the future.

07. You are working on a campaign titled “The Global Happiness Challenge”. Could you share with us about this campaign? (what this campaign is/why you wanted to do it/what you are trying to achieve in doing this campaign)

I started The Global Happiness Challenge series in February 2016. A total of 11 pictures have been drawn so far. I try to show the heartbreaking pictures of the war by transforming them into happiness.  I don’t want war, I don’t want to be killed by bombs or bullets, I just want to spend time with my people laughing and having fun, I wanted to convey that message by drawing the series, and people all over the world have expressed their solidarity.

08. Another thing that you are working on is ‘The Global GOD FORBIDDEN Challenge’. Could you tell us a little bit about that?

The idea of ​​starting the Global God Forbidden Challenge series came from the fact that ordinary people are those that are most affected by war, not those who are in power.  I tried to show how it would look, if the people in power and those in control of war get affected. Although I don’t want that to happen in reality, the name of the series is ‘God Forbidden’. Only one picture of the series has been drawn as of yet, maybe more will follow, in the future.

09. “The school is open, but the fear of infection has not abated. Renu and Benu want to overcome this fear and go to school, to class with friends.  If you know any three ways to return to school?” These lines are from a comic that you made a few days ago with the intention of raising awareness about health protocols for school children who have restarted schooling after a period of lockdown. Do you have any plans of continuing this series? If so, how?

In this project – Renu and Benu, we have tried to narrate an important story  in collaboration with the Department of Health, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) and various international donors.  My team and I have created this comic in the form of wall comics in a total of 4 schools in Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar.

10. You are addressing a timely issue I think, by trying to raise awareness about issues and concerns of this scale. How does your work comment on current social/political issues?

As a conscious Bangladeshi citizen, I try to draw on social political issues that are prevalent in our community. Day by day, we are keeping more silent. If something goes wrong in our society, it is necessary to talk about it. It is necessary to protest.  I, as a citizen, always try to convey an important message of social significance, through my cartoons.

11. Recently, you have been selected for ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ and you must be feeling happy and proud about that. How were you able to receive this honor and what are your thoughts on it?

I was selected for Forbes 30 under 30 because of my Global Happiness Challenge series that I drew in 2019. Of course, it is a pleasure to be internationally recognized.  It is my greatest achievement to be able to give  this joyous feeling of achievement and glory to my country, my mother, my family, friends and countless people around me.

12. Do you feel at all connected to older comic artists like Steve Ditko or Jack Kirby, have you drawn any inspiration from them?

No, I’ve not been very much inspired by foreign comics artists, but the art style of other genres outside of comics inspires me a lot, such as those of Jason Sailor, Pascal, Guru Fujita, etc. I have been inspired by countless local comics artists, such as my guru Ahsan Habib, Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy, Mehedi Haque, Nasreen Sultana Mitu, Oishik, Ishmam, Rakib, Mahatab, Rehnuma and many more.

13. You should be engaged in multiple initiatives at the same time while dealing with your personal life. As an artist, freedom could also be a priority of yours. How do you manage a work-life balance as an artist?

To be honest, I’m really bad at maintaining a balance of time in between work and my personal life. But I try to do my best all the time. I don’t want to put too much pressure on my mind by thinking too much about things and  my priority is to give time to my family and those people close to me.

14. How has your education helped you in your career?

If you mean institutional education, then I would say that it did not directly benefit me. I dropped out without finishing my graduation at some point,  but I have had the opportunity to meet countless people within my career and personal life, all of whom are in my eyes.  The learning and experiences I have gathered through these encounters mean much more than any institutional education.

15. Would you like to turn your ideas into a visual element?  We have seen how famous animated cartoons like Frozen, Car, Toy story & Mulan have influenced the people of all generations. Do you also want to see yourself as an animator?

Of course there is a desire to work with animation. This  sector is huge and we are not technically ready yet. We have a lot of world class artists. Yet, young artists are doing great work, making new comics in our country. One day I will create my own animated cartoon.

16. Lastly, before we wrap up, I would like to ask you a very important question. What message would you like to give the youth out there? How can we encourage the youth to pursue their career growth?

The youth of Bangladesh are smart and talented enough. They are interested in figuring out their talents and building their professional career.  No worries about long term results. They probably don’t need to be given more advice than this, I believe they understand enough. And not everyone always likes advice.

Unfortunately that’s all the time we have. It was such a pleasure talking to you, Mishu. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your story with us. We hope that the young people who will get to read this inspiring story will get empowered to work hard for their dreams even amidst all the challenges that life throws at them and emerge successful.

Yes, Thank you (G Dhonnobad!) Nafisa!! I’m glad you are doing this. Your questions have been very interesting. You asked me a lot of questions, my time is short so I tried my best to answer within my time limits. Thank you and thanks to the entire IYAP team.  So nice to be a part of this…

About the Author:

Nafisa Islam

Nafisa Islam

Nafisa Islam is an ardent youth from Bangladesh. Currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, she is very much interested in using writing as a medium of expression to bring change to the way people think. She is very much passionate about children and their rights as well and would like to use her writing to bring justice to children facing difficulties. She also embodies an obsession with fashion and shows immense dedication towards her work. She always loves to be supportive and always likes to empower youth to advance in their careers and takes delight in seeing them happy and achieving their successes and goals.

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