Character of an uncommon man

RK Laxman’s famous caricature was the voice of the common man

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | January 27, 2015 | New Delhi



An 8-ft high bronze statue of a man clad in dhoti-kurta and a jacket stands tall at the entrance of the Symbiosis International University's Vishwa Bhavan campus in Pune. Holding a book in his hand and the scant hair on his balding head standing upright, the man looks bewildered. A youngster tries to figure out the cult of the man and asks his friend about his identity. The friend shrugs: “It must be a freedom fighter or a politician.”

Indeed, the common man no longer goes about in a dhoti-kurta, and the millennials may not connect with the famous character created by RK Laxman for the Times of India in 1951, but he remains an iconic figure for a vast majority of English newspaper reading Indians.

Much before the ‘aam aadmi’ became a political rhetoric, Laxman conceptualized, and made famous, a caricature of a common man. Much before the 140-word twitter voice of people was invented, Laxman gave us a character and a voice of fewer words, but immense impact. His ‘common man’ staring from the front page of the daily gave us a reason to start our morning with a smile. Anger, helplessness and, at sometimes, impotent rage, were the other emotions one went through while scanning the cartoon. Whatever the emotion of the day, one looked it up the first thing in the morning paper.  

Laxman, the creator of the ‘common man’ died on Monday at the age of 94, in Pune.

I was not born into the generation which woke up every morning to the cartoons of Laxman -- the cartoonist of post-independent India, but I certainly did not miss out on the timelessness of his caricatures of the common man. The reality of a vain Indian, as portrayed by Laxman did not escape me. His satire was subtle and succinct.

‘You Said It’ -- the cartoon, talked about the subtle aspirations of the common man, his anxieties, failing state and the state that failed him.  It was about the bewilderment of “we the people” at the apathy of the powerful.

My personal favourite among all his cartoons I chanced upon was one titled, “Man on the Moon Project”. Scientists at the ‘Space centre’ are huddled together. Another scientist enters the room with a potential astronaut – Laxman’s ‘common man’ – and says, “This is our man, he can survive without water, food, light, air, shelter…”


Postscript: I wanted to write an obituary of Laxman. But all I could write is a caution: Angels, pull up your socks. The humorist will be there soon. Get the house in order or else the ‘common man’ will arrive.

Comments

 

Other News

Why is Lanka in flames: the making of a crisis

This time it was not Lord Hanuman, but the poor decision-making of the political leaders combined with several global economic factors that set Sri Lanka in flames. A state of emergency was declared in Sri Lanka. This month, after the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka resigned from his post, the

Growing Up as a Multilinguist

Being and Becoming Multilingual: Some Narratives Edited by Rajesh Sachdeva and Rama Kant Agnihotri

Mumbai civil body refutes allegations of scam in tenement scheme

The BrihanMumbai municipal corporation (BMC) has rejected the Congress accusations of financial irregularities worth Rs 8,000 crore—9,000 croe in awarding contracts for getting project-affected people (PAP) tenements on private land.    BMC has said that it implements vital p

Sedition law: Can it have a place in democracy?

Does the concept of sedition have a place in modern democracies? This question became more relevant when the apex court recently put the country`s colonial-era sedition law on abeyance stating that there is a “requirement to balance… security interests and integrity of the State… and th

Not just another Manto anthology

The Collected Stories of Saadat Hasan Manto: Volume 1: Bombay and Poona Translated by Nasreen Rehman Aleph Book Company, 548 pages, Rs 999 There are writers, there are writers’ writers, and then there are readers’ writers. Saadat Hasan Mant

These tribal women may be illiterate but are successful entrepreneurs

Meet Promila Krishna, 39, Lalita Nayak, 40, Parbati Gadba, 42, Sanadei Dhuruwa, 39, and Nabita Barika, 41, of Kundra block in Odisha’s Koraput district. Except for Promila who is a matriculate, others haven’t attended school beyond the elementary level. However, while introducing themselves to

Visionary Talk: Arvind Sawant, Member of Parliament with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now


Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter