Monday, January 26, 2015

Two ways to use a pencil. I know which one I prefer.

I read the news today, oh boy ...  RK Laxman died.


The death was not unexpected--he had been unwell for a while and, hello, he was 94.

I, like hundreds of millions of Indians, instinctively know that the odds of another one like him are practically zero.  He was it.

If only cartoonists and satirists adopted Laxman's way ... and what a contrast to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, which I even became aware of only because of the awful terrorism!

Laxman showed how to do satirical cartoons so well that he was loved even by the very people he lampooned.  Simple images that told us a lot.  Unlike the terribly sophomoric Charlie Hebdo cartoons that did not do anything at all to educate us, and nor did they entertain more than a handful of French.
He would walk up the stairs to his office and had no use for the lift. A brisk, no-nonsense man, Laxman in his white, short-sleeved crisp shirt and black trousers was as much a trademark of the newspaper as was his cartoon of the Common Man with a moustache and spectacles. His devastating humour trashed politicians while looking at the pathetic plight of common persons who still do not have the basic necessities. His humour did not always make you laugh: it was often grim, ironic, and impaled politicians for their generally corrupt and exploitative ways.
“Laxman established a routine at work that remained consistent throughout his brilliant career. He would wake up at around 7 a.m. and be at the drawing board in his office at 8.30 a.m. every morning. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., he would read newspapers, concentrating on news items, political analyses, editorial commentaries and opinions. From 2 pm to 5 pm, he would torment himself, waiting for the muse of satire to oblige him with an idea for the next day before the deadline. “It was like shooting a movie,” according to him, “choosing a suitable setting, selecting the characters and compressing the script into a brief caption.” He swiftly sketched the idea in pencil, used ink and brush, wrote the caption and added final details. By then Laxman would have put in eight to ten hours of continuous work.” 
That was some dedication to his work, to his craft, and to the people he was serving.  They don't make people like him anymore.

A few years ago, when walking along the waters as the sun was setting in Mumbai , my uncle--a Mumbaiar like how I am an Oregonian--grabbed my hand and asked me pointing away the waters "you see there?"

I thought I saw something in the dimly lit condition.  "Is that RK Laxman's man?" I asked him.  My uncle helped me refresh my memory--"yes, the Common Man."

I was sure that Twitter would have photos of crowds by that very statue.  Of course, yes:

We are seven billion-plus on this planet, but can't even come close to equaling one RK Laxman.  Such is life!

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