One of the creations of legendary cartoonist R.K. Laxman shows his “common man” reaching Mars. Laxman had sent this delightful gift to ISRO just a couple of weeks back. (Press Trust of India)
Eminent cartoonist R.K. Laxman, who immortalized the hapless “Common Man” with his devastating swipes at politicians but without malice, died at a private hospital at the age of 94 after suffering multi-organ failure. A Press Trust of India report.
Creator of ubiquitous mute spectator “Common Man,” Laxman was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 17 for urinary infection. He suffered multi-organ failure and was put on ventilator.
Laxman, brother of late novelist R.K. Narayan, is survived by writer wife Kamala, retired journalist son Srinivas and daughter-in-law Usha.
His legendary spell on the Indian newspaper reader was cast after joining the The Times of India. His front page pocket cartoon “You said it” started in 1951, unleashing his iconic “common man,” a silent witness to the shenanigans of politicians who were supposed to realize his dreams, hopes and aspirations but betrayed him on most occasions.
His association with TOI continued through the six decades even as he got back to work after recovering from a paralytic stroke in 2003 that incapacitated his left side.
A Padma Vibhushan, Laxman also won the Magsaysay Award in 1984 for journalism, literature and creative communication arts.
Condoling his demise, noted cartoonists described him as outstanding, towering figure who always had his finger on the pulse of the nation.
“India will miss you R.K. Laxman. We are grateful to you for adding the much needed humor in our lives and always bringing smiles on our faces,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Laxman, son of a school teacher, rose to become India’s best known political cartoonist while his ubiquitous ‘common man’ became an icon in himself. As the news of his demise broke, his admirers were seen making a beeline for the the statue of ‘Common Man’ in Worli in Mumbai.
Born in Mysore on October 24, 1921, Laxman was one of seven siblings, including elder brother and eminent novelist, the late R.K. Narayan.
Ironically enough, the young Laxman had to face rejection from Mumbai’s J.J. School of Arts when he applied there for admission, and subsequently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Mysore even as he continued with freelancing and contributed cartoons to Blitz, Swarajya.
While in college, Laxman started illustrating R.K. Narayan’s short stories in The Hindu and sketching political cartoons for local newspapers.
He took up his first full-time job as a political cartoonist at Mumbai’s Free Press Journal.
Among other honors bestowed on him are B.D. Goenka award-Indian Express, Durga Ratan Gold medal-Hindustan Times and Padma Bhushan.
“He was the original God of cartooning,” cartoonist Ajit Ninan said about Laxman, adding that all the metaphors that emanated from his hand and mind were unmatchable. Another noted cartoonist, Sudhir Dar, said Laxman always had his finger on the pulse of the nation.
Cartoonist Hemant Morparia said, “He was a towering figure. He outlived all his contemporaries. I assume his cartoons will in fact outlive him for a very long time.”
Sudhir Tailang, another member of the fraternity, said, “Laxman is an institution” who created “respect for the job of cartoonists.”
The Indian Space Research Organisation paid its tributes to the iconic cartoonist by posting online his cartoon ‘common man’ reaching Mars, the last of his works, which he had sent to the space agency after the success of the historic Mars Mission.
“Tribute to the Legendary Cartoonist R K Laxman. His ‘common man’ reaching Mars. R.K. Laxman sent this delightful gift to ISRO a couple of weeks back,” ISRO said in a post on its Facebook page with the cartoon.