The Common Man creator RK Laxman passes away in Pune

  • Yogesh Joshi, Hindustan Times, Pune
  • Updated: Jan 26, 2015 22:38 IST

Legendary cartoonist RK Laxman died at a private hospital in Pune at the age of 93 on Monday after suffering a cardiac arrest, doctors said.

Laxman was best known for his iconic cartoon character The Common Man, who held a mirror to society and embodied the hopes, aspirations and troubles of generations of Indians for over half a century. The diminutive man in a distinct checked coat silently watched and chronicled the changing shades of India’s socio-political life through a daily comic strip, You Said It.

The beloved character, however, disappeared around five years ago after Laxman, younger brother of novelist RK Narayan, suffered a stroke in 2010.

Last week, he was hospitalised following a urinary tract infection that led to a multi-organ failure, said Dr Sameer Jog.

"On Monday, Laxman suffered a cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated. He was declared dead at 6:30pm," Jog said. His final rites are scheduled for Tuesday, family members said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the Padma Vibhushan awardee’s death and said Laxman’s demise left a void in everyone’s lives.

“India will miss you RK Laxman. We are grateful to you for adding the much needed humour in our lives & always bringing smiles on our faces,” Modi tweeted. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis also said Laxman’s art and wit would be missed.

Born in Mysore on October 24,1921, the Magsaysay award winner began his career with a Kannada daily and moved to the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, where he worked with Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. While the Sena party held a grudge against south Indians in Mumbai, the leader held Laxman in high personal regard. Laxman moved to the Times of India afterwards, where he spent the rest of his career that spanned over 60 years.

Though he directed much of his satire and wit against politicians in his cartoons, Laxman was also known for winning over the same leaders.

One of his inimitable cartoons in 1982 was on how then PM Indira Gandhi was running the party when she decided to make political nonentity Babasaheb Bhosale the Maharashtra chief minister. Gandhi, as depicted in the cartoon, walks past Congressmen standing respectfully. The PM stops before one of them and says, “OK, you there, you are the new CM. What’s your name?”

The youngest of six siblings, Laxman drew his first lines at three. “Nobody pushed me into this profession. But, as far as my memory goes, the first sketch I attempted when I was three,” the cartoonist had said in a 1994 interview. The cartoonist was obsessed with crows with his Pune apartment filled with pictures of the bird.

Affectionately called dudu, Laxman separated from his dancer wife Kamala in 1960 and tied the knot again in a few years time to his niece, also called Kamala.

Laxman was also a great illustrator. His illustrations accompanying stories in his brother’s Malgudi days became famous.

Four years back, Laxman drew a few lines when turning 90, though a series of paralytic strokes had taken a toll on one side of his body as well as his speech. “I made him draw something on issues he has in his mind. That kept him happy,” said his wife Kamla.

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