We Indians are – or rather were – a very respectful lot. Throughout the thousands of years of our history we have always been considerate (more or less) of others, and by extension, considerate about hurting anybody’s feelings [Of course I speak of the first, the current “kewl” generation with their disdain for anything Indian, especially Indian culture, which is “non-secular” “backdated” “superstitious” etc etc, don’t give a rat’s doodah about hurting anybody’s feelings]
Caring for others is a problem when it comes to satire or sarcasm. There needs to be a line which is not crossed, being unnecessarily cruel is never warranted. Also, there needs to be clear difference between criticising an individual or a person’s private life and criticising an office or a person’s public life.
Of course the fact that we are also generally a subservient lot means that commentary on the ruling class has never been critical, never mind overly critical. Our predilection for banning things we do not like means its always a risk lampooning the powers that be.
Of course, Sukumar Roy showed us that it can be done – but he did it using words.
R. K. Laxman did it using his brush.
Throughout the decades, he gave a slap to the face of our political overlords (usually from the Indian AntiNational Congress party) with their holier than thouness, their sneering condemnation and condescension towards us mere mortals and their single minded agenda of looting the country and glorifying The Family.
And he did it in such a way that even the notoriously violent, corrupt and genocidal thugs of the Indian AntiNational Congress party could never do anything about it.
And before someone claims he is right wing fascist etc, he never spared the Commies or the Right wing either. Anybody and everybody was the target and he criticised them all – without ever hurting anyone.
He started way back in the 1940s in Madras (with a certain Bal Thackeray as a co cartoonist) and later joined the ToI. The Common Man came into existence in 1951 and ruled for the next 5-6 decades.
The common man became a symbol of honesty (long before Muffler Man fraudulently tried to project himself as one) and integrity and truth. And that’s why it struck a chord with millions of us. The common man, and by extension, Mr. Laxman was the voice of truth, sanity, honesty and fearlessness.
With one stroke of his brush, Mr. Laxman could perfectly capture and project the utter hopelessness and futility of the common man’s life and at the same time could bring out the innate hope and optimism that the common man has – that life will be better. He also created the iconic Gattu- the mascot of Asian Paints and drew the cartoons for his brother’s Malguri Days.
R.K. Laxman was the most uncommon common man – and if anyone deserves India’s highest accolades, he does. It was a nice touch by the Maharashtra government to announce a state funeral for him (without politicising the situation)
The common man is dead. Long live the common man.
And that brings me to another man – a most uncommon man.
A man, who at the tender age of 41 is still kicking arse and is at the top of his game, [Compare and contrast with the Guddudow, who, at the tender age of 21, is getting his arse kicked and getting and kicked out of trains by aunties] despite surviving a life threatening disease.
A man who just became a grand slam champion for the 15th time, and who shows no sign of slowing down.
A man by the name of Leander Paes.
A great man, and a living legend, and someone who will not surprise a single soul anywhere if he wins a few more grand slams.
May you live long and kick arse.