A couple of weeks back, cartoonist and iconic chronicler RK Laxman bid goodbye to millions of fans the world over. Despite his works covering issues panning India’s socio-political, cultural and countless other spheres, Mumbai will miss him in particular. With his numerous references to the city, serving out slices of our life, he was able to communicate its triumphs, spirit and woes with ease that endeared him to his followers. His creation, the Common Man, could have easily been residing in a 1BHK flat in suburban Mumbai, as he encountered the dynamic, ever-changing Indian landscape for decades.
Another legendary illustrator who was able to bring Mumbai alive through his work was Mario Miranda. On a recent visit to a store in Bandra that sells his creations on official merchandise, it was a delight to relive his tributes to the city be it through characters like Miss Fonseca, Moonswamy and their ilk, or how ink-work that could deftly translate the city’s chaos and constant churn in vibrant hues.
These two artists gave to Mumbai a flavour and character that was not just charming but also multi-layered, evocative and one with nuances that often skipped the eye. Their craft conveyed the city’s dreams, its angst, despair, its success, and its lighter side, most importantly. Their worlds presented an education for generations of followers and fans. With their respective styles of humour, they could drive home even the most pressing of issues. We would read it, chuckle and ponder over it, too. There was much more sense in their one column space than what our law makers could say in their hour-long speeches.
While their works influenced and wowed generations, one wonders about the coming generations. Will they ever be able to understand, gauge and soak in these influences that celebrated their beloved Mumbai? An ideal way to salute them would be by setting up a gallery to showcase their finest works for posterity. It would make for the ultimate tribute to both masters. This would at least ensure that their works are inked in history for everyone to see and marvel at as a small token from the city.
Taking it a step further, this space should evolve into a permanent exhibition of those great artists who made Mumbai an integral part of their collections. It could go a long way in making future generations aware of our rich, artistic legacy an aspect of our city’s fabric that tends to often go unnoticed.
And one can only imagine Laxman and Miranda manage a smile from up there, with the hope that Mumbai never ceases to humour itself.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day