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The story behind a cartoon of Sri R. K. Laxman

The cartoon by R.K. Laxman in honour of the Kanchi Sankaracharya


“How do I pay tribute to Swamiji who has honoured me by remembering me?” R.K. Laxman had asked V. Shankar, president of South Indian Education Society and Sri Shanmukhananda Fine Arts and Music Society, when he went to invite him in 2004 to a felicitation function to be attended by the Shankaracharya of Kanchi.

During the golden jubilee celebrations of Sri Jayendra Saraswati being anointed the Sankaracharya, several awards were presented in Chennai on March 31, 2004. The Sankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam had felicitated several eminent personalities, including R.K. Laxman. Mr. Laxman’s granddaughter, Mahalaxmi Laxman, had received the award on his behalf, and had presented Sankaracharya a cartoon showing the common man seeking his blessings.

The Hindu had carried the cartoon, along with a report on the felicitation programme, in its edition on April 1, 2004.

Paying rich tributes to the legendary cartoonist, Mr. Shankar recalled the story behind the cartoon. “When I went and met him in Pune to invite him to the function, he told me he would be unable to attend and that he would send his grand-daughter on his behalf,” Mr. Shankar recalled. “He said that Swamiji remembering him was a blessing in itself. And the fact that he would give him an award was a double blessing. Then he went on to ask me what he could give the Swamiji in return.”

When Mr. Shankar suggested that he draw a cartoon of the seer, Mr. Laxman, despite being unwell, agreed immediately.

K.A. Viswanathan, a functionary of the South Indian Education Society, framed the cartoon. “I took the sketch, blew it up, framed it and gave it to his daughter-in-law for presenting it to the seer in Chennai. Mr. Laxman also asked his daughter-in-law to speak to Mr. N. Ram of TheHindu on his behalf and asked me to go and meet him with a copy of this sketch in Chennai,” he said. The cartoon became an instant hit. “It reflected Laxman’s art of reciprocation. It conveyed how Laxman was not just a common man. Remembering his talent is a tribute we want to pay him today. Laxman can never be erased from our memories,” Mr. Shankar said.


Published on January 28, 2015

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