Rasipuram Krishnaswami Iyer Laxman or R. K. Laxman was a cartoonist, illustrator and humorist. He is famous for his creation “The Common Man” in the Times of India and more.
Birth and Childhood of the Great Cartoonist
R. K. Laxman was born in Mysore to a Tamil speaking Iyer family where his father was a headmaster. Laxman was the youngest of eight children: 6 sons and 2 daughters. In school, Laxman drew on his own on floors, walls, and doors of his house. He enjoyed doodling caricatures of his teachers at school. Once his teacher praised his drawing of the peepal leaf, he decided to become an artist. His father suffered a paralytic stroke and died the following year. His elder brothers financially managed so Laxman completed his schooling. He continued as a student at the Maharaja College of Mysore.
As a student, Laxman worked as a part-time cartoonist for local newspapers and magazines. He worked for Rohan, Swarajya, and Blitz. He illustrated political cartoons for local newspapers: Swatantra and Kannada humor magazine, Koravanji. As a freelance artist, Laxman illustrated cartoons for Swarajya, animated movie on Narada. Also, he illustrated for his elder brother stories in The Hindu. Laxman’s antics inspired stories like “Dodu the Money Maker” and “The Regal Cricket Club” written by Narayan. Laxman earned Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mysore.
Political and sarcastic Cartoonist
Laxman’s first full-time job was as a political cartoonist for “The Free Press Journal”, Mumbai, where he worked with Balasaheb Thackeray. Since 1951, Laxman worked for The Times of India, Mumbai, for over fifty years. His Common Man character published every day showed the witness to making of Indian democracy. Other magazines he illustrated in include: The Strand, Punch, Bystander, Wide World and Tit-Bits.
In his autobiography, “The Tunnel of Time”, Laxman has acknowledged Sir David Low, the world-famous British cartoonist, whose work in The Hindu inspired him. Laxman taught himself to draw everything that caught his eyes outside his room’s window. He drew dry twigs, leaves and lizard-like creatures crawling about; he drew his servant chopping firewood; he drew the crows perched in various postures on the rooftops of the opposite buildings.
Laxman had married Kumari Kamala Laxman, a Bharatanatyam dancer, and film actress. She was a child actress, “Baby Kamala”, and became “Kumari Kamala” after graduation. The couple did not have any children and divorced in the 1960s. R K Laxman remarried another Kamala, the author of children’s book. Later, the couple had a son named Srinivas who also worked for The Times of India. R. K. Laxman became paralyzed on his left side after a stroke in 2003. He never recovered.
Laxman celebrated his 91st birthday party in Pune with close friends and relatives. He cut his cake and received a DVD on “The Brainy Crow” made by Rajvardhan Patil. He was greeted by Shiv Sena and Balasaheb Thackeray. Scientist Jayant Narlikar and Symbiosis University chancellor, S. B. Mujumdar, greeted him personally. On 26 January 2015, aged 93, Laxman died in a hospital in Pune. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis announced that Laxman’s funeral would be a state funeral and a memorial was built in Laxman’s honor.
Quotes/Statements by the Uncommon Man
“Generally, people take everything for granted. They hardly see anything around them”.
“I do not remember wanting to do anything else except draw”.
“My sketch pen is not a sword, it’s my friend”.
Written By: Hetal Kabra