LITERARY REVIEW

Voice of the 'common man'

BOOK WATCH

By Anita Joshua

Voice of the 'common man'

Brushing up the Years: A Cartoonist's History of India 1947-2004, R.K. Laxman, Penguin, p.304, Rs. 750.

EVEN now, when his brushstrokes have become less firm because of the cerebral stroke that he suffered in 2002, R.K. Laxman's pocket-sized cartoons more often than not pack in more punch than the whole of Times of India (TOI), where he has featured regularly since 1947.

For years, Laxman's ubiquitous "common man" — the non-aging man in checked coat and permanent look of bewilderment who is a permanent fixture of the cartoonist's "You Said It" — has been the wake-up call for readers of the daily. Penguin — which has brought out several volumes of the Best of Laxman — has now come out with a collector's edition spanning his entire cartooning career with TOI.

And, since Laxman began drawing cartoons for TOI in 1947, this collection doubles up as a rib tickling, yet telling commentary on independent India. An India, which by Laxman's own admission some years ago, was overworking the cartoonist.

Cutting, but never without humour, this collection shows how Laxman has untiringly picked up cudgels for the common man and used satire to avenge the wrongs committed by the powers that be on the average Indian. Beginning with a 1947 vintage portrait of Jawaharlal Nehru, this representative selection of his work signs off with a comment on the "petticoat" governance of the day; making Brushing up the Years as up-to-date a narrative on modern Indian history as any chronicle by a historian.

Voice of the 'common man'

Thinking out-of-the-box, GAIL-style

Looking Beyond: Daring to Think, Raring to Act, GAIL India Limited and Excel Books, Rs. 350

THE title, Looking Beyond: Daring to Think, Raring to Act, has put this Gas India Limited (GAIL) publication at the risk of being passed by as yet another of those "pep talk" books that have found a niche for themselves in bookshops.

For, it takes more than a cursory look to realise that this is a book of writings by people who just do not think and talk big, but have matched their words with action.

Be it Odissi danseuse Sonal Mansingh, who battled paralysis and defied medical diagnosis to return to dancing, self-made businessman Sunil Bharti Mittal, banker Naina Lal Kidwai or environmentalist Sunita Narain, they are all individuals who have held their ground against the odds.

Whether these four and the remaining nine individuals featured in this collection of lectures organised by GAIL have actually articulated ideas that qualify to be described "out-of-the-box" is subject to interpretation. But, they have used the "Looking Beyond" lecture series to air their mantras for change.

Conceived by GAIL Chairman and Managing Director Prashanto Banerjee to help prepare his executives to meet the challenges of a "de-regulated environment", this exercise is an articulation of his belief in "fresh perspectives and lateral thinking that an outsider can bring to the table". Which is why a natural gas company decided to pick the brains of a dancer, an environmentalist and a photographer besides entrepreneurs and bureaucrats.