We would have loved to be in Goa last weekend. Wishful thinking aside, the tiny neighbouring state doesn’t need much reason to make a dash to.
Yet, as the legendary illustrator’s 89th birth anniversary was ushered in on May 2, it would have been apt to step inside Mario’s world and relive the passion with which he celebrated Goa, the world and of course, Mumbai (thankfully for us), through his craft. Mario’s home, now converted into a museum, would have made for the ideal pilgrimage for anyone who salutes the man and his marvelous creations. For yours truly, that visit will have to wait.
Be it the chaotic streets of Fort in Mumbai, the languid charm of Fontainhas in Goa, Berlin’s burlesque bars or Rome’s hallowed steeples, Mario’s pen translated it with finesse that remain excellent observation exercises in today’s time-strapped world. His black-and-whites and coloured sketches have brought us immense cheer for decades, spanning generations. Even his pocket-sized columns that would appear in Mumbai’s newspapers were much to look forward to. Some of us were lucky to have had access to Mario’s illustrations that appeared in Bal Bharati textbooks as part of the SSC syllabus in primary school. Those were the days.
Miss Nimbupani, Moonswamy, Bundaldass and Miss Fonseca: These inimitable characters created from his imagination have also been part of Mumbai’s psyche in its years as an emerging cosmopolitan city. In their own inimitable style, each echoed and represented the growing concerns, charms and all the drama of a city in churn. Rising prices, lack of jobs, poor roads… Mario’s pen drove home all these points with his distinct wit that guaranteed a chuckle, and yet, made us think.
Luckily for his fans, we included, Mario’s works are still around in some form or the other. But this isn’t enough. As a tribute to his contribution, it would be timely and ideal if the city creates a space for this genius – a treasure trove of his visual memoirs of the city. Imagine walking into a room filled with life-like statues of Miss Fonseca and the like? Or a permanent exhibition of his travels from around the world, with, of course a separate section dedicated to his beloved Goa? It would make for a fantastic attraction for Indian and overseas visitors, adding a new attraction that will give its city’s multi-hued character as a cultural and literary hub, a much-needed facelift.
It’s the very least that a city, which was a favourite on this legend’s drawing board can give back. We’d love to see that day.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day