Eminent cartoonist inaugurates Shreyas Navare’s exhibition
He is 91 and, still recovering from the stroke he suffered two years ago, unable to speak. As his wheelchair is pushed on without stopping in front of one of the cartoons on display, cartoonist R.K. Laxman makes a noise of protest, and his helper brings him closer to the picture. Once he has carefully analysed the cartoon, he gestures — now on to the next one!
In a rare public appearance, Mr. Laxman — visibly weak, having travelled from Pune — was at the Nehru Science Centre here along with his wife Kamala to inaugurate freelance cartoonist Shreyas Navare’s exhibition of cartoons.
“It was his love for the cartoonists of the next generation [that made him decide to attend the programme despite his ill-health],” said Ms. Kamala. This is evident as the aged cartoonist pores over each hanging on display before moving on to the next one.
There were doubts whether he would attend the event following the death of his old friend and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. “He [Bal Thackeray] was a very good friend. Every time his picture is showed on television, he [Mr. Laxman] raises his hand, as if to show their friendship,” said Ms. Kamala.
The friendship between Mr. Thackeray and Mr. Laxman dates back to 1946, when the former joined him in the Free Press Journal as a cartoonist. Such was the friendship of almost 60 years that Mr. Thackeray had asked his aides to call Mr. Laxman on November 3 just to speak with him.
Jayraj Vellur, joint secretary, Kerala Cartoons Academy, presented Mr. Laxman with a book of 111 cartoons of President Pranab Mukherjee drawn by numerous cartoonists including Mr. Laxman himself. From his wheelchair, Mr. Laxman asks the attendant to show him all the cartoons. Satisfied with the book, he gives Mr. Vellur, who has travelled from Kerala to Mumbai to present him the book, a thumbs up.
“What makes him great and different from the rest of us is his consistency with the cartoons. He was witty, sarcastic and comic in his cartoons. But more importantly, he was all that for almost 60 years, without a break. This is something which none of us might able to do,” said Prashant Kulkarni, a cartoonist with a leading Marathi daily in Mumbai.
Filmmaker Alyque Padamsee, the guest of honour at the event, praised Mr. Laxman for his courage and humour as a cartoonist. “I won’t touch his feet as a mark of honour, as he never likes it, but I want to kiss his head. The source of all his great work,” said Mr. Padamsee, kissing his forehead. “Cartoonists like him make politicians look human; otherwise we have almost made them our gods. That’s what I find great about Mr. Laxman,” he said.