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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Great Cartoonist R.K.Laxman's 90th Birthday - Common man's greetings to an 'Uncommon' man




"R K Laxman, the uncommon man who can encapsulate a thousand editorials in one pocket-sized cartoon, doesn’t hold back the tears during his 90th birthday celebration
At the celebration of R K Laxman's 90th birthday at his residence in Pune on Monday, it was impossible not to constantly wonder what his comment for the day was.

India's greatest cartoonist, who gave voice to the mute masses, is unable to speak since he suffered a stroke in June 2010. At the gathering of media, artists and family, he expressed himself by thumping his applause on the table, raising his hand to say thank you and not holding back a single tear.


When a TV crewperson added a mike to those already lined up in a row before him, he turned up his hand in a questioning gesture. How can irony ever be lost on R K Laxman?


The man whose pictures say more than a thousand editorials was watching the goings-on with childlike curiosity and engagement, as if he was not a participant but a keen observer making mental notes, much like the common man he created.


A couple of children wormed their way to the podium through the crowd to wish him. He opened the card, made by a child, and read it, oblivious to the announcements and speeches around him.


The event was organised by his daughter-in-law Usha Laxman, wife of Srinivas Laxman, and Kailash Bhingare, president of Saraswati Library in Aundh. Cartoonists such as Charuhas Pandit - the creator of Chintu - Vijay Paradkar, Sanjay Mistri and Vikas Sabnis presented him with his portraits.


Beside him was his wife Kamala who thanked the gathering on his behalf. When his granddaughter Rimanika, fed him his birthday cake, he cried. Ram Jethmalani, who has often been the subject of Laxman's humour, was present to greet the maestro.


After the event, inside his apartment packed with curios, was a journal of his recent sketches. There were traces of many of his motifs in the work - the crow, the common man. Usha Laxman said he has been sketching every day since his stroke. "That is his daily exercise.


It seemed hopeless last year when dad had to be airlifted from Pune to Mumbai. It is amazing to see how far he has come since then." To those flipping through the sketchbook, he gestures his displeasure with the work. On the walls are framed illustrations of crows.


Laxman has admired the bird for its sharpness and strong survival instinct. "The common crow is really an uncommon bird," once said the man who has an instinct for the last sharp word, uttered on behalf of those unimpressed by fancy language.


Osbert Lancaster, Britain's first pocket cartoonist, believed nothing dated as quickly as the apt comment. But Laxman, quite famously, does not keep a diary, refer to a calendar or wear a watch. We wish him a happy birthday.

 Still sketching

 
Laxman has been sketching every day since his stroke and in a journal of his recent sketches, there are traces of his favourite motifs - the crow, the common man. However, to those flipping through the sketchbook, he gestures his displeasure with the quality of his work" 






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