M N ROY-COSMOPOLITE

The streets of Mexico City in the early 1900s were buzzing with bohemian visions of a new world. The famous Mexican critic Carlos Monsiváis once described the capital as “an apocalyptic city, populated with radical optimists”. He forgot that, for three years at least, there was one radical humanist among them.

MN Roy is one of India’s intellectual giants, an early 20th-century figure whose mind thought globally, and whose influence ran through some of the era’s biggest minds, from Einstein and Gramsci to Lenin and Sun-Yat Sen.

All of this I learnt only after encountering a bizarrely named nightclub on the streets of Mexico City earlier this year. M.N. Roy (not his real name) is also sadly obscure, a largely forgotten fringe figure in the annals of modern Indian thought.

But he shouldn’t be. His writings hold up extraordinarily well, and his philosophical school of Radical Humanism has newfound relevance in our fractured, divisive time. This is an attempt, through comics, to find resonance with a deeply unusual man and his ideas. It is, of course, a playful interpretation of his work rather than a scholarly analysis.

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