ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Uncommon Cartoonist

R K Laxman, India’s best-known cartoonist, who passed away on January 26, aged 94, was a larger-than-life figure whose legendary status belies a strange quirkiness.

R K Laxman was big. He was huge. He was enormous.He was humongous. Millions of Indians worshipped him. They will continue to do so. He was a legend, a national treasure. He was a larger-than-life figure, especially in a country like India which nurtures very few cartoonists. One is tempted to add that he was much bigger than the cartoons he drew daily for over five decades on a variety of subjects, barring, perhaps, religion, a subject that is taboo to be caricatured in this country as Abu, his contemporary, had warned me years ago.

Laxman said it all quite harmlessly so there was never any later damage control. No demonstrations or unrest. His immense fan following devoured with pleasure his words and works of art. It did not matter if, over the years, they became repetitive both in the choice of subject and visual portrayal. Apart from the direct political issues that arose as subjects, at times with alarming frequency from the benches of Parliament, the rest of his cartoons commonly bordered on official apathy, corruption, poverty, potholes on the road, price rise. Indian life, in short. Laxman’s black-and-white brushwork in ink over pencil lines were master strokes. He was a born artist.

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