When he applied to the JJ School of Arts, Bombay, hoping to embark on a career based on his major interests of drawing and painting, he was rejected (according to the Dean) on the grounds that his drawings lacked, “the kind of talent to qualify for enrollment in our institution as a student”.
This student – RK Laxman – was to go on to become one of India’s most well known cartoonists.
Laxman’s comic strip “You Said It” graced the front page of The Times of India for over fifty years, and was one part of the front page that was almost always viewed first when the newspaper was opened each morning. It featured Laxman’s creation – the Common Man, who silently and resignedly observed his country being forced to endure indignities inflicted by scheming politicians, greedy bureaucrats and assorted other characters. The Common Man represented the hopes, aspirations, and spirit of the average Indian. He watched how people survived each day as they traversed the complexities of life.
Laxman’s incisiveness, sharp wit and skills as a satirist ensured that he spared no one.
There used to be two small boxes on the front page of the paper – one was Laxman’s cartoon, and the other was the “Late News” box. I recall Laxman, in an interview, describe how he used to occasionally struggle for ideas for the next day’s cartoon, and used to have the paper’s editor pass by late in the evening, as it came close to sending the next day’s edition to the press, to say that there were two spaces yet unfilled.
And, when the readers opened their newspapers the next morning, there was only one empty space – the “Late News” box.
The Common Man would be there, as he had been for decades.
He shares a name with two prominent figures – one is a politician, the other is a sportsman.
And, when his younger sibling captained a cricket team, the older one promised that he would shave off his beard and moustache if the team won the trophy.
He kept his promise, when the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Indian team won the T20 World Cup last year.
Narendra Singh Dhoni is now campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party, being impressed with and inspired by his namesake Narenda Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat.
The younger Dhoni is a hugely popular figure in his home state of Jharkhand, and the BJP is, perhaps, hoping that this connection will help its party win parliamentary seats from this state in the ongoing elections.
There is never a dull moment during Indian elections. If film actors and former cricketers can join politics and others from the same profession play the role of crowd pullers, it is but natural that the politicos pull out all stops to leverage the high profile image of these persons to their advantage.
Asked if the current Indian captain would join politics, the older sibling said, “He is preoccupied with cricket.”
That’s a relief. I am sure millions of Indians would prefer that, too.
I was rather surprised the other day when an email from an organization named “Friends of BJP” landed in my Inbox. It contained the BJP’s election manifesto in the form of a .pdf attachment.
Wonder where these guys got my email ID from.
The elections are just around the corner, and while the traditional forms of campaigning must be on in full swing (mercifully I am far away from it all), an interesting development this time around is the use of the internet and mobile phones.
I understand that the BJP might be sending a billion sms messages during the campaign, and all parties combined might send out 3-4 billion. That is huge.
Not surprising, though, when one considers that mobile phone penetration has increased form 26 million in 2004 to over 360 million today.
Internet penetration has increased too, from a figure of 16 million five years ago, to 80 million at the moment.
The bean counters at the telecom operators and internet service providers must be grinning hugely.
Of the 700 million or so eligible voters, about 100 million are first-time voters in the age group 18-24. The younger age group, though not exactly politically inclined, might yet vote this time.
The Barack Obama campaign team used the internet extensively during the recent U.S. Presidential elections, and India’s political heavyweights have not been slow to follow, with websites, personal blogs, and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Most party websites look like brochures, but some senior politicians have their own, snazzier versions. Strange though, that most Congress party top-shots do not have a personal website. The BJP does.
The rural vote bank has, traditionally, been the main focus down the years. Some things might change this time.
I would like to believe that I am neutral when it comes to Indian elections – the guys from every political hue, in most instances, make tall promises and generally do not deliver when elected.
Leaves you with a sense of déjà vu.
But, I am going to hang on that mailed pdf. Should these guys make it, it will give me a reference document against which to write up my version of their score card.
Not that it’s going to make an iota of a difference.
It seems to be becoming a fashionable form of protest these days to hurl shoes at politicians, with India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram becoming the latest to be at the receiving end.
An Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at then U.S. President George W. Bush in December ’08, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had a shoe thrown at him by a German graduate student while giving a speech in Cambridge University in February ’09.
In the past, it used to be rotten tomatoes, eggs (rotten or otherwise), pies, custard, etc, that were directed at some of the worthies. Luminaries such as Tony Blair and Lord Peter Mandelson have had to grin and bear it. Lesser mortals have endured, too.
However, it is not public figures alone that have been targeted. Bill Gates had a pie thrown at him in Belgium, and Steve Balmer received the rotten egg treatment while on a visit to Hungary.
Politicos of various hues will now be on their guard, and train themselves to have nimble footwork should footwear or other assorted objects head their way.
But, shoes can be expensive – and, might never be returned to their owner. Will the current economic meltdown see degradation in the quality of footwear thrown? Would a battered pair that was headed for the trash bin receive a more publicized send-off?
There is never a dull moment when it comes to the general elections in India. Political parties of all hues pull out all stops, the campaign is intense, and there are no holds barred when it comes to calling names.
Creativity is at its peak during the elections, and gimmicks galore. Even if one is merely a silent observer, the occasional humour and irony is inescapable.
The incumbent Congress party adopted “Jai Ho”, the title song of Slumdog Millionaire for its campaign. Watch one version at :
Did the party’s biggest rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party sit idle and watch? It might have been created by a party supporter, and, therefore, not official party material, but the parody “Bhay Ho” of the Congress version describes, in the party’s view, how the nation has been facing ‘bhay’ (fear), ‘bhookh’ (hunger) and ‘aatank’ (terrorism) over the past five years. Watch it at :
The parody is sung to the tune of “Jai Ho” (wonder what the copyright owners might have to say), and the script runs thus :
‘Aaja aaja voter is jhanse ke tale, aaja aaja jhoote moothe vade ke tale … Bhay ho bhook ho.’
(Come voter, take shelter under false promises. Let fear spread, let hunger spread).
‘Ratti ratti sachi hamne jaan ganvai, bhooke pet jaag jaag raat bitayi, mandi ki maar mein naukri ganva di, gin gin vade hamne jindagi bita di, mandi ho, atank ho, mahangai ho, bhay ho, phir bhi jai ho …’
(We lost lives through dark terrible nights, we have kept awake with empty stomachs, the economic slowdown has taken away our jobs, we have spent a lifetime counting false promises, let there be a slowdown, let terrorism flourish, let prices rise, let fear spread, even then we will say, victory is ours …)
It would be interesting to see what else the various Parties unleash on the electorate. It sure promises to be an entertaining election. Never a dull moment.