31 October, 2020

A Pocketful Of Delight

The uncommon talent that was behind the Common Man

A Pocketful Of Delight

In the 40-odd years that I knew R.K. Laxman, I never ceased to marvel at the singular traits of his personality: boundless curiosity about the way the world spins, a penchant for detecting an oddity in an individual, a place, an object, a situation, a bird or an animal, a zest for harmless mischief, a flair for mimicry and a rigorous discipline that he imposed on himself. All this taken together accounts—largely, if not in full measure—for his prodigious output of cartoons and caricatures and their unprecedented appeal.

The appeal did indeed cut across generations, party lines, ideological frontiers, across regions and communities and genders, across fads and fashions of the day. How did he pull this off? One reason, I reckon, is that Laxman deployed his gifts to expose the double-think and double-speak of the powerful and the influential with clarity and candour but without a shard of malice. That was his Laxman rekha.

He depicted the ludicrous side of our nation’s rulers with consummate aplomb. But never once did he offend their dignity. I...



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