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Common man creator to be honoured

R K Laxman's 90th birthday bash to be held at his home in Pune is going to be a celebration with a difference

R K Laxman, renowned cartoonist whose pocket cartoon in the Times of India put the good into the greeting good morning, is all set to mark his 90th birthday with a celebration at his home in Aundh, Pune on October 24, Monday morning.

Said his Mumbai-based daughter-in-law, Usha Laxman, "My husband, daughter and I would be in Pune on Sunday, itself.


R K Laxman with family while on a visit to Mumbai last year
 
It is a birthday with a difference, not only because "dad" turns 90 but simply because he never celebrates his birthday! He celebrates birthdays of other family members but not his own. So, I guess this is a bit of a deviation for him."
 
Usha adds that she is taking along a special gift for R K Laxman. "I am putting together a booklet of all the cards he has made and gifted his son (my husband) and his granddaughter (my daughter) through the years.
 
Since he made them, they are unique. I am also putting together some family pictures to go with the booklet. This, I think would be a memorable gift."

Laxman, who was already ailing from a previous stroke, suffered another stroke last year in August. This has left him unable to speak, says Usha adding, "his other parameters are okay."

Asked if there would be some special dish that Laxman likes to eat being served on the day, Usha said with a laugh, "He loves sweets so there are going to be plenty of sweets, chocolates and cake, I am sure." She also added that the house "would be lit up with 90 candles, as 90 candles cannot fit on a cake."

Aakash Kandeel
Organiser Kailash Bhingare clarifies, "The house would be lit up with 90 traditional lamps, aakash kandeels as they are called, that we see in so many houses during Diwali. We are going to start putting them up on Saturday night itself."

Bhingare, who is the owner of Saraswati Library in Pune and has organised several comic conventions and literary-cultural events says, "We were very keen that R K Laxman's birthday be marked in a different way. After all, one does not turn 90 everyday and given his iconic status and huge following, it was only fitting that we do something off the beaten path of birthday celebrations with cakes, flowers etc."


A young Mumbaikar finds a friend in a statue at Worli Seaface
inspired by Laxman's Common Man


Bhingare continues, "On Monday morning after greetings, there are about 10 to 12 cartoonists who would be coming into the house and making a sketch of R K Laxman and presenting these as gifts to the cartoonist. Some of these caricaturists and cartoonists would do their sketches at home.

The others, would sketch R K Laxman in front of the cartoonist himself and present him their drawings."

Bhingare says that a huge number of artists wanted to come in but they had to limit numbers, "as celebrations are going to be held in the home not in a hall somewhere. We also had to think about the family. So, there are going to be a few invitees included these cartoonists, very close family members and the press."

There are a few of his friends expected to be present, some of who are, says Bhingare, S B Majumdar, president of the Symbiosis Institute and State Information Commissioner, Vijay Kuvalekar.

The organisers add, "Besides sketching Laxman, there are also going to be sketches of his most famous creation The Common Man. The Common Man is synonymous with Laxman, so it is fitting that we honour The Common Man along with his creator.

For this reason, two cartoonists, Vikas Sabnis and Charuhas Pandit would be sketching Laxman's Common Man offering a bouquet to Laxman. All these years, The Common Man has made us smile every morning, done so many favours to us, so isn't it time we repay him for all those rib-tickling moments?"

Power & Intellect
Nearly all the cartoonists attending the function are Pune residents but there is Mumbai's Sanjay Mistry, full-time cartoonist and caricaturist who considers himself, "immensely lucky" to have got an invite to attend the party with a twist.
 
Says Mistry, "I have been a cartoonist for 30 years and have been, like so many of my generation weaned on the pocket cartoon by Laxman.

I think there is so much power in his cartoons." Mistry would be catching the 5 am bus to Pune on Monday morning, "I should be there by 9.30 am, in time to honour the man I consider to be an institution to younger cartoonists."

For Ravi Paranjpe, who is Pune-based the time to reach Laxman's home would be considerably lesser than the 4.5 hours that it would take Mistry, but the painter-illustrator is simply going in to meet him. Says Paranjpe, "I am not going to sketch, I am simply going there with other artists.

For years I have enjoyed his cartoons, which speak of the power of his intellect and his awesome drawing ability. In fact, in the 1960s, I worked in the Times of India, where R K Laxman was the senior most cartoonist."

 Since the stroke he suffered last year has robbed him of his speech, Laxman may not be able to respond with a customary "thank you" to birthday greetings. R K Laxman's silence though will be as eloquent as his little cartoons, that said so much in a few deft lines and brought to life the maxim: brevity is the soul of wit.

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