Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXI No. 18, January 1-15, 2022

A tribute to a legend on his birth anniversary

by R.V. Rajan (rvrajan42@gmail.com)

Let me begin by tracing my brief association with Laxman. When I started my advertising career with Clarion Advertising Bombay as a Junior Account Executive in 1964, the late Mr. S.A. Venkatraman (ICS retd.) was my first client. He was the brother in law and father in law of R.K. Laxman. He took a liking for me and when I moved to Chennai in 1974 I got to know his elder son Babu Swaminathan’s family very well as they were my neighbours at Sastri Nagar where I have been living since I moved to Chennai. Babu used to tell me interesting stories about his two famous maternal uncles R.K. Laxman and R.K. Narayan.

When I became the Secretary of the Tamil Nadu chapter of the Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) in 1978, I decided to use this connection to get the legendary cartoonist to address the Members of the chapter. I met Laxman at his home in Bombay and he agreed to my request as I promised him a good media coverage of the event and interviews with some popular Tamil weeklies of the time. It is at his home that I came to know about his fascination for crows.

To get a bigger audience the Chapter decided to tie up with ISTD (Indian Society for Training & Development). It was a lecture-cum-demonstration by R.K. Laxman at the Connemara Hotel. In his typical tongue-in-cheek style, Laxman gave a talk and also demonstrated how he visualizes politicians on a drawing board. In his mind, every politician is symbolized by an object which he draws out first and then converts into a cartoon, adding a few strokes from his creative pen. To draw the cartoon of Morarji Desai, he first drew a flower pot and within a few seconds transformed it into a cartoon of Morarji. It was amazing and looked so simple. No wonder he became a legend in his life time, delighting millions of Times of India readers with his cartoons.

I was in charge of his three-day programme in Chennai. I even hosted a dinner for him at home attended by a few close friends. During the informal interaction with him at home we found that he was as sarcastic with tongue in cheek humour in person as he was in his cartoons. He was also very conscious of his celebrity status and would not suffer fools.

Sketch of R.V. Rajan by R.K. Laxman.

When it was time for him to leave Chennai, I had gone to the airport to see him off. After thanking me for my efforts he asked me to look at him and framed my face with his four fingers. I was puzzled and wondered why he did that. The surprise was over when a couple of days before my 36th Birthday,I received a packet by registered post. It contained an amazing caricature of me by Laxman. Though I was not as plump then, R.K. Laxman visualized me as I would be and the cartoon showed me dressed in my favourite striped safari suit. It also captured the small line- a scar on my forehead, a reminder of an accident I had when I was six years old. Truly a genius with fantastic memory and the power of observation. I was delighted beyond words to receive the priceless birthday gift, The cartoon rightly adorns the cover of my autobiography titled Courage My Companion, which I describe as the ‘uncommon autobiography of a common man – Laxman’s common man’!

Though I have received several interesting gifts on my birthdays over the years the one I received on my 36th birthday from Laxman is something I will cherish for ever! I cannot also forget the three days I was close to him coordinating his meetings with various media and getting to know more about him beyond his reputation as a cartoonist.

Comments

  1. ravinareayanan says:

    Agreat tribute to a great cartoonist, R.K. Laxman. His common-man cartoons were famous in those days and it carried conviction of his ideas on political sycophancy and subservient politicians. It was nice to see that he gifted you your above caricature on your birthday drawn by him. I was a member of PRSI Madras chapter till 2018. I think i have seen you addressing our gathering. – Ravinarayanan, former PRSI member

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