“Since childhood I do not remember wanting to do anything else except draw,” R.K. Laxman says in his autobiography, The Tunnel of Time. And he has done very little else in over five decades as a cartoonist. From objects that caught his eye as a child outside the window of his room, to “the pretentious dignity of Mrs. Gandhi to the grumpy face of Narasimha Rao.” Famous for his acerbic cartoons lampooning political figures, Laxman at one point said, “What politics is all about today. Blah-blah-blah. The day that stops and the quality of our leaders improve, I will have to retire and go away.”
Fortunately for the world, politicians remained consistent enough. But he also complained of present-day leaders that, unlike those of an earlier generation, “they all look the same today.” Lalu Prasad and Jayalalithaa were the two exceptions, he said. Nehru, Morarji Desai, Indira Gandhi and the others of that time had personalities which made them a joy to draw. The present crowd lacked personality!
Some of the cartoons out of the 1960s and 1970s would be alive and meaningful if reproduced today without a date. Like the one where a policemen is reporting to his superiors saying, roughly, that there had been looting, rioting, stone-throwing and “then the situation took a turn for the worse” and there was — looting, rioting, stone-throwing. So too, the innumerable cartoons on price rise that he did in the early decades — they would be as alive today as they were then.
But it was not always politics that inspired him. “As a child I drew objects that caught my eye outside the window of my room — the dry twigs, leaves and lizard-like creatures crawling about, the servant chopping firewood and, of course, and number of crows in various postures on the rooftops of the buildings opposite.”
The man known as R.K. Laxman was born Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Laxman on October 24, 1921 in Mysore. The youngest of six brothers, Laxman had as his older brother, the legendary R.K. Narayan, the creator of Malgudi. Admonished by one of his siblings never to copy from the many magazines that he used to read in the house, Laxman impressed his school teacher with a drawing of a peepul leaf. He later drew a caricature of his father sitting in an armchair, using a piece of chalk on the ground, much to his parent’s horror. Laxman inspired his brother’s writing instincts early in life. R.K. Narayan’s Dodu, the Money Maker, based on Laxman, won him a literary award. In an essay in Frontline (issue of January 18-31, 1992) Laxman writes: “I did not know that Narayan was a writer, till one day the postman delivered a magazine called The Merry Magazine. An announcement in it said that Narayan had won a literary prize for his short story, Dodu, the Money Maker. The story was about a boy struggling for financial independence from his elders so that he could buy groundnuts from an old woman selling them under a tree — whenever he felt like it. I was excited because the plot had a remote suggestion of my own activities and needs as a boy of eight. Besides, the hero bore my name!”
(Source; The Hindu)