R.K. Laxman: The last of the ‘Mysore Generation’

Renowned cartoonist R.K. Laxman (94) who passed away in Pune on Monday was born and brought up in Mysuru (Mysore) and completed his education in the city.

He was a student of the Maharaja’s College from where he obtained his degree. Even during his student days, he would produce caricatures for the works of his brother R.K. Narayan who went on to become a novelist.

But unlike his brother who lived in the city till the 1990s — and by some reckoning drew inspiration from Mysuru for the fictitious town of Malgudi — Mr. Laxman shifted base early in life. However, he was a frequent visitor to the city of his birth and renowned photographer T.S. Satyan — who passed away in December 2009 — was one of his close associates.

Mr. Laxman would call on him during his visit to the city and the two would go nostalgic of a bygone era and exchange information about their mutual friends. City-based cartoonist Nagendra Babu recalled that Mr. Laxman’s last visit to Mysuru was in November 2009 by when he was of frail health. Yet, the artist in him was alert and Mr. Laxman sought to be taken out to the city which he loved.

Mr. Babu recalled that Laxman, along with his grand nephew Chetan Krishnaswamy, went around Manasagangotri, Maharaja’s College, Government School in Lakshmipuram (which is now Gangubai Hangal Music University) and R.K. Narayan’s residence in Yadavgiri. “He did not utter a word during the entire drive but I imagined him observing how things had changed as evident in his facial expressions,” said Mr. Babu, who is a Fulbright Fellowship awardee.

Though Mr. Laxman was said to be reticent, Mr. Babu recalled that he was full of encouragement when he first met him at Dhvanya Loka in 1993. “He autographed on one of the caricatures of him I had drawn and gave me tips to improve my skills,” recalled Mr. Babu.

Noted historian Ramachandra Guha had written in The Hindu (April 25, 2004) about the “Mysore Generation” underlining how the city produced great talents — all around the same time — in different fields. These included the likes of R.K. Narayan, C.D. Narasimhaiah, T.S. Satyan, M.N. Srinivas, H.Y. Sharada Prasad to name a few. Mr. Laxman was the last of that generation.

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2022 5:19:29 PM |

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