What do two brothers, both alums of the College, do when they aren’t either touring the country as a member of the band Darlingside or studying public policy and international relations at Harvard? They write a children’s book that is subtly critical yet respectful of the current U.S. Presidency by reminding readers that the President poops.
On Jan. 20, brothers Auyon Mukharji ’07 and Aroop Mukharji ’09 published When the President Poops, a 36-page picture book featuring their own illustrations and writing. The book humorously shows that despite the various responsibilities of a President – here depicted as President Donald J. Trump – they still need time to, yes, poop.
Aroop, a Ph.D. candidate studying public policy, international relations and political science, first suggested writing a children’s book to Auyon shortly after Trump’s inauguration last year.
Auyon discussed his practicality in contrast with Aroop’s spontaneity. “[His] role in our relationship is often just getting things started and moving things,” Auyon said. “He’s big on ideas and is a force of nature.”
Writing the book was what Aroop called a “mood of the moment decision,” arising from a desire to comment on a presidency that has tremendous implications for younger generations.
“[We are] living in a moment of one of the most civically engaged public in decades,” Aroop said. “How do you simultaneously respect this institution [and], at the same time, disagree or criticize what is a fairly explosive, controversial, passionate moment in American politics – and especially one that you disagree with?”
Providing political commentary through a children’s book was the optimal “creative outlet,” Aroop said. He also wanted to add some excitement to the literature on politics that often takes place primarily within academic journals. Auyon, a member of the indie folk band Darlingside, was receptive to the idea, largely because of the varying reactions he had noticed from audiences at his concerts held after the election.
“A niche I thought would be cool to fill [was to ask], ‘How do you introduce a child into this world of politics without explicitly demonizing or exalting this man, which sometimes seem like the only two perspectives on Trump?’” Auyon said.
He instead wanted to present a humanizing portrait of the current presidency that could extend to any prominent figure in society, a sentiment inspired by his father; “When you look up at your heroes, keep in mind that they put their pants on the same way as you do: one leg at a time,” Aroop and Auyon’s father used to tell them.
“Even though these people might seem so far away, they’re still people. So the hope is [to introduce] children to this president as a person,” Auyon said. It is a humorous yet humbling reminder for all readers, adults included, that the President “takes dumps just like you do,” he said.
From playing with rubber band guns, paper airplanes and Legos during their childhoods to being involved in a cappella, squash and tennis at the College, the brothers have embarked on various endeavors together. Yet despite their natural partnership, both had to consider the risky factors involved in the project.
“There’s no question that there’s some degree of risk you take on when you’re writing about human feces,”Aroop said. Both brothers also had to consider how they would navigate their busy schedules while working on the book. But after an hour or so of hashing out the general structure of the book at a Thai restaurant away from their shared Cambridge, Mass. apartment, both were sold on the project.
Drawing inspiration from classic comics like Calvin and Hobbes and The Adventures of Tintin, the duo formalized their idea from February to June of 2017. They refined their illustrations to depict scenarios of presidential responsibilities recognizable to children during which the President might need to poop, while also including “cheeky” references that adults could appreciate, like one illustration of President Trump meeting with German chancellor Angela Merkel, or another of Trump tweeting on the toilet.
Some of the illustrations incorporate greater political criticisms the brothers have. For example, an image of Trump leaving to go to the bathroom during a press conference speaks to political leaders’ tendencies to evade questions.
The duo did argue about small, nitty-gritty details regarding the illustrations, such as Trump’s skin tone and hair. The biggest point of contention, however, was Trump’s eyebrows: Should they be arched, angled downward or simply straight lines? “I think eyebrows are the most underused gesture,” Aroop said.
Despite its lightheartedness, the brothers also wanted to use the book as a means to highlight the importance of treating all people with respect, a principle that was emphasized greatly within their family.
“The hope for our parents was to instill [in us] respect for [others] … and it wasn’t until much later, post-college, really, that I started putting treatment of people together with politics and government,” Auyon said. His parents did not make that connection as explicit, partly because they were immigrants from India. “There wasn’t the same connection that one might have as a lifelong citizen of a country. There wasn’t the same ownership over the culture,” he said. Rather, their parents emphasized compassion and caring, lessons that the brothers hope are incorporated into When the President Poops.
With the book now available for purchase on Amazon, the Mukharji brothers are excited to get feedback from friends, family and members of the College community. And who knows? Maybe even Trump himself.