Today is RK Laxman’s birthday, the first without his physical presence. Our Common Man creator would have turned 94. Google didn’t fail to remind us all.
“The Common Man” and “You Said It” brought us daily smiles while we were growing up. So many many years ago, when we heard about The Times of India’s release of a compilation of RK Laxman’s work “50 years of Independence through the eyes of RK Laxman” (1998), three of us from my workplace Mode Research, Mumbai pre-ordered our copies. My plan was to gift a copy to my grandfather, who was already 90 years by then, and who was really a real life Common Man.
I found RK Laxman’s address somewhere I cannot recall, and wrote him a letter, telling him of my intention and also about how much I was enjoying the book. I also asked if he would autograph the book. To increase chances of a reply, I enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope. I was delighted to receive a letter from RK Laxman, on The Times of India Group letterhead, and in the same envelope I had sent. He did not forget about the book I was gifting my g’dad – the letter was accompanied by an autographed strip to put in the book! It is quite likely that in those days, if I had taken the effort to make a trip to the TOI office at DN Road in Mumbai, I could have met the gentleman and got the book personally signed. My g’dad read the book and gave it back to me to keep. So it stands on our bookshelf and gives my children a glimpse of India’s past with the unmatchable humour of RK Laxman!
On RK Laxman’s passing earlier this year, I put together a keepsake captured in bottlecap magnets (CapsToKeep). Happy that several people appreciated the effort and that RK Laxman and the Common Man will be with them forever!
When I made my autograph page for RK Laxman some years ago, I had found this picture (below) of the cartoonist with our President Abdul Kalam. Today, I couldn’t help but wonder what they must be thinking of our India when they meet up there or wherever they are now, and what RK Laxman must be doodling to keep himself busy. We really are missing his interpretations of today’s India!