Ours was the Golden Age of Cartooning and Laxman was the undisputed king! He ruled for over six decades with the power of his pen. With his inimitable impish sense of humour, he was master of his craft, and though he often cut close to the bone, he knew where to “draw the line”!
I became an ardent fan of his brilliant work even before I became a cartoonist. In the late Fifties, during my days with Air India in Bombay, I used to visit him occasionally at his office, and one day he suddenly said to me, “Come, I’m going to buy a new car.”
As we entered the Fiat showroom, I saw what a stunning impact he had on people. The staff was spellbound and they treated him like royalty. I thought to myself, ‘My God. It must be great to be a cartoonist!’ Here was the Rolls Royce of cartooning, buying a little Fiat!
One day in the Seventies, he suddenly turned up at my office in Hindustan Times in Delhi and caused a sensation! Some of the big names of journalism were acting like adoring fans and he was truly their superstar. Before we stepped out for an idli-dosa lunch at Madras Cafe in Connaught Place, I asked him for a little sketch. Without any hesitation, he drew his delightful Common Man holding a copy of the Hindustan Times and saying, “But you must read the Times of India”. Today it’s one of my prized possessions.
My last meeting with Laxman was in the early Nineties, when there was an India Week in Bremen in Germany and we were both invited to exhibit our works. The night we arrived, the dining hall of the small hotel where we were staying had closed and I realised to my horror that I would get no dinner. Laxman had arrived a little earlier, so when I called him, he said, “Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty.” Soon after, I entered their room. Laxman and I sat down for drinks and his dear wife produced three cups of vegetable noodles which they had brought from Bombay. If it wasn’t for the Laxmans, I would have starved!
Laxman was truly a national treasure. A colossus. And I feel so privileged that I have known him and shared a small part of the stage with a superstar!
Farewell, my dear friend…
(Sudhir Dar is an eminent cartoonist)