Cartoonist Ragati Pandari is a household name in the State

If laughter, which is the best medicine, is what she gave her readers, she found drawing cartoons a panacea for the travails she faces. She fills the world of readers with fun by her healthy cartoons on the follies and foibles of people and the thousand minor problems they encounter. Big donation for LKG seat, thieves beating sons-in-law to it for festival bonanza, housewives cooking fancies that puts family members to great risk -- the stuff that a traditional cartoon is made of, has made Ragati Pandari a household name with readers of Telugu magazines for over three decades now. She is the only woman cartoonist drawing in Telugu. The crowning glory came when the State Government recently awarded her a special Hamsa prize of the Andhra Pradesh Cultural Council which she received from Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy. The award carried Rs.30,000, a replica of Hamsa and a certificate, thus becoming the first cartoonist to receive the Kalaratna award for 2009. “But I consider it an award for all cartoonists,” she says humbly.

Ragati Pandari of Visakhapatnam took to drawing quite early. Her first cartoon was published when she was eight years old in Andhra Jyothi weekly when the redoubtable Puranam Subrahmanya Sarma was editor. Though affected by polio and lacking formal education, she drew her inspiration from family members, including her mother, who read magazines and papers.

“I was an ‘Ekalavya sishya' of noted cartoonist Jayadev,” she says.

Right from her teens she had been a prolific creator with editors asking for her cartoons regularly. Yuva monthly, Andhra Patrika, Andhra Prabha and Jyothi monthly carried her cartoons regularly. “I got encouragement from Andhra Bhoomi when C. Kanakambara Raju was its editor. Though my interaction with people was limited, I had run a weekly cartoon Rajakiya ‘Cheda'rangam” for a decade, she says.

“I keenly watch people whom I come across and go through newspapers and get my ideas,” says Ragati Pandari. Though she did not go to college, she ran a cartoon column “College girl.”

Her other columns include “Sree-mati”, “Kavayitri-Rachayitri”, “Iddaru Ammayilu”, and “Navagraham-Anugraham.” If one has perseverance anything can be achieved and limitations cannot make any difference, she asserts. “Cartoons have become a passion with me so much so I ignored everything else and got fully immersed in it,” she says of her work. Living with her brother near Super Bazaar here, the 45-year-old cartoonist continues drawing with zeal. She keeps a calendar of sorts and still draws for the festivals. She has lined up a few for the coming Ashadham during which period newly-wed men are not supposed to visit the in-laws.

She kept herself away from the media glare and her interaction with various sections of society is limited. But she has won a number of awards, the first one from the then District Collector Dayachari. She received the Madras Telugu Academy's Ugadi Puraskaram from the then Tamil Nadu Governor C. Rangarajan.

But the best compliment came from the best cartoonist in Telugu Bapu who described her work as “padaharanala Telugu cartoon.”