The Trippin Travellers are not only about travel. We love books as much as we love travel, and especially comics. Yes, we are all 5 going on 30 here 🙂 But don’t be fooled by The Wise Fool of Baghdad, a delightful comic book written by Mohammed Ali Vakil and published by Sufi Comics. It’s filled with nuggets of humour and wisdom, and we caught up with Mohammed to find out what his inspiration was for the book, and for life in general.
Sufi Comics was the first Indian publisher to enter the acclaimed Comic-Con at San Diego. From real estate to writing, what different worlds you traverse! Where does the inspiration come from? What led you to create Sufi Comics and why?
As a Muslim I grew up learning about Islam, and was inspired by the stories found in its history and traditions. The lessons from these stories became the compass for me to make decisions in life. And they helped me process the bigger questions in life like “Why am I here?” “What’s my purpose in life?” “What happens when I die?” “Where is there suffering?” “How do I deal with suffering?”
I also grew up reading comics like Tin Tin, Asterix and many comics by Indian artists. It made me aware how powerful the medium of comics can be in expressing one’s culture.
I wanted to share the stories that I learned while growing up, and thought it would be great if these stories were illustrated in the form of comics. So beginning in 2009, I started to draw Sufi Comics, and shared them on our (my brother and I) personal blog.
We would often receive feedback from teachers, parents and people of all faiths about how they’re benefiting from these comics, and that they would like them in the form of a book so that they can share it with others. Thus we decided to create our first book named “40 Sufi Comics.”
We continue to create comics and publish them as books. We now have a site dedicated for Sufi Comics
Rumi’s works are probably at the peak of their popularity right now. When we consider his poetry, we are sometimes carried away by the sheer magic of his words. Rumi stood for love in all its forms. What aspect of Rumi touches you the most?
What I really enjoy about Rumi is his ability to use words, metaphors and stories to point to a deeper reality. Love is a very central theme in Rumi’s works, but it’s often confused with worldly love, while in reality he’s referring to divine love. We hope through these comics we can show more clearly what he meant.
What’s your favorite quote from Rumi and why?
“When someone beats a rug, the blows are not against the rug, but against the dust in it.”
When we go through suffering, there is a tendency to complain how the universe is against us. But in every suffering there is a deeper lesson which can be a very powerful teacher for our souls to grow. With this perspective you can turn all your problems into learning opportunities.
How has Bahlool inspired you in real life? Could you tell us an incident or occurrence where you acted keeping Bahlool’s words in mind.
There’s an elegance to how Bahlool responds to the problems he comes across. It’s not by being very direct with the other person (that approach usually backfires) but it’s done by giving an experience to the other person, and bringing his awareness to the deeper truth from that experience. I personally like the story of “The Three Questions” in the book and I think it illustrates this very well.
Have you undergone formal training in drawing or painting? How did you get interested in it?
I started learning by watching YouTube videos on drawing. But I realized that’s not enough. To learn drawing it really helps to learn from a Master. I’ve attended classes, and even taken online coaching on drawing.
We read that you love making goals. What are your goals for 2018? Is travel one of them?
I’m lucky that the nature of my work gets me to travel around the country, and the world. I was in Amsterdam twice this year to study an amazing self-organizing management system called Holacracy.
I now think less in terms of goals, and more in terms of systems. In 2018, I want to focus on building better habits for good energy and health. I’m also looking forward to publish the 5th Sufi Comic book in 2018.
Speaking of travel, you grew up in Dubai. What does travel mean to you in terms of the experiences you have gained?
I like to travel to places that are as different as possible from India. It challenges my assumptions. I get see a whole new world where people are doing things in a way that I never considered or thought possible. Then when I go back home, I’ve got a new lens through which to look at the world.
On a lazy Saturday/Sunday where can we find Mohammed Ali Vakil?
Every Sunday morning, I go to a secret location, block the world out and do my GTD Weekly Review. It helps me to stay sane for the rest of the week 😃 Check this link out to learn more about the Weekly Review.
What is your favourite destination you have visited so far and why?
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled several countries. Each place has it’s own beauty, so it’s difficult to pick a favorite. But I think my favorite ones are where I get to spend time with my close family and friends.
It’s the relationships I have that determines how much I enjoy that place.
Ok, we have to ask you this after reading your post on biryani and mindful eating. Where can we get the best biryani in Bangalore?
My Mom’s biryani is the best!
And last, in today’s troubled times, what message of peace would you love to pass to fellow travelers in this journey of life?
I recently discovered NVC (Non Violent Communication). Through that I learned instead of judging people in negative ways, look beyond and understand what feelings the person is experiencing, and what “needs” do these feelings point to. Just by naming the feelings and needs, it builds an empathetic connection with the other person. You begin to see the other person as your own-self who’s struggling to meet his needs but not able to express it. Once you have a two way connection where both can acknowledge the feelings and needs, it becomes very easy to find peaceful ways to solve problems. After experiencing NVC, it gave me hope that world peace is possible.1