There is an intrinsic connection between art and science, the two are not divergent streams of knowledge as the world perceives. Sumanta Baruah whose science cartoons are on display at the Indian Institute of Cartoonists (IIC), endorses the view. “Einstein played the violin, Homi J. Bhabha used to draw Bohr's caricatures and Raja Ramanna was an accomplished musician… art and science are both central to the pursuit of knowledge.” Constantly fed with political caricatures, it is refreshing to see an anthology of science cartoons. V.G. Narendra, managing trustee of IIC observed that although “science cartoons are very rare in India,” their popularity is rising as they help create awareness about otherwise difficult scientific concepts. The intrinsic humour of this medium also brings forth the lighter vein of otherwise grave issues such as global warming, the extinction of endangered species, genetically modified crops, the ubiquitous Internet etc.
Sample one of Sumanta's cartoons: The legendary ‘scientific' apple falls on the ground and the present-day Isaac Newton's counterpart is too enamoured by his electronic gadgetry to even pay heed to this ‘Eureka' moment! While ones like this hint how the present scientific community takes for granted path-breaking discoveries of the past, there are others which are educative, making direct references to scientific laws. Some of his cartoons comment on society and the impact of science on everyday life. For instance, in one cartoon, two young lads wonder aloud, “why Newton and Einstein studied ‘Science' but did not go to become a doctor or an engineer?” while in another cartoon, the computer keyboard has a “Think” option.
Being an engineer at Samsung, and sitting amidst an army of machines, it is all the more poignant and ironical when Sumanta jokes about our dependence on machines and technology in his cartoons. Besides, his cartoons have hues of his Assam home. One of his favourite cartoons about the pygmy hog, an endangered species of Assam, reflects his concern about the depleting bio-diversity.
Drawing daily is easier said than done for this busy engineer placed in an urban setting. “Living close to office has its advantages in Bangalore. I get to draw one to two hours every day since I give the traffic a miss,” quips Baruah. Finding time in spite of a grinding schedule, he gives vent to his creative juices after work hours, during weekends and holidays. Bangalore is a cartoonist's delight, for, “it is not only culturally vibrant but also houses the only cartoonist's institute in the country,” he adds.
According to Sumanta the challenge of cartooning lies in its brevity. Communicating an idea in the least number of words and a just few lines, that too in a single frame composition can be daunting at times. A newcomer must study the work of eminent cartoonists — past and present, from India and abroad. As with any other field, it requires constant drawing practice, as drawing is an integral part of a cartoon. The ideational state is more significant, than the outcome itself, believes Baruah, privileging the process of cartooning. The exhibition is on till June 12 between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Indian Institute of Cartoonists, 1, Midford House, near Kid's Kemp, Off M.G. Road. Call 25595252/ 99800-91428 or log onto www.cartoonistsindia.com