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Monday, Jan 27, 2020 12:45 [IST]

Last Update: Monday, Jan 27, 2020 07:04 [IST]

Of Cartoons and Cartoonists

Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee
I have been in love with cartoons and caricatures since my childhood. Handa Bhoda and Bantul, the Great were my favourite characters. All these characters were created and regularly drawn by Narayan Debnath in a Bengali Children’s magazine Suktara.  I was hero-worshiping the strong muscular Bantul- the boy in a white banyan, who always help the needy and punishes the wicked. He wears an aura of invincibility but he is not arrogant. In fact he has a childlike simplicity. Handa Bhoda- the two kids- one thin and smart and the other fat and stupid were fun.
As I grew up- I was introduced to newspapers. At home we had many avid newspaper readers. They would spend hours reading and rereading newspapers and discussing about the news covered or otherwise. I grew up with the cartoons of Amal Deb, Chandi Lahiri and Kutty in Bengali newspapers and R K Laxman, Sudhir Dar, Abu Abraham in English newspapers. Kutty also drew in English newspapers like Hindustan Standard. But we never subscribed to that.
Initially I could not understand the hidden meaning of the cartoons- the nuances. I was happy reading Sudhir Dar’s cartoons on every day happenings. As I grew old- I could understand the nuances- and I fell in love with the cartoonists all over  again. This time it became a lifelong love affair. However, when I married my wife said: “He loves cartoons probably because he looks like one.”
When I joined IIMC and began teaching- I decided to write a book on History of Journalism in Odisha. One of the chapters of the book was devoted to Cartoonists. I read about the cartoonists, learnt the history of cartooning in India and Odisha. It was fascinating and I decided to write more about them.
So I started writing bio-profiles of the famous cartoonists of India across languages and regions. It was regularly published in Raipur based monthly magazine: Cartoonwatch. This series was translated into Odia and was published in Samadrusti. It was published in Hindi and was published in Daily Deshbandhu.
I am still writing profile of the cartoonists. My plan is to put them togather in book form. I have thought of the title of the book: 50 Great Indian Cartoonists.
Among my future plans are: I’ll do more research and write a fat book on Cartooning in India from the Raj period to say Modi period. I plan to publish the book by 2022.
I also want to write about the Memes. This I guess is providing technology in the hands of the common men to make fun of the high and mighty.
Collecting information about cartoonists has always been a pain in the neck- except for some very well-known and researched cartoonist like R K Laxman and Shankar. I have to go to the archives, ruminate though wades of papers. Internet has been a great help. So were friends, who helped me whole heartedly.
Not many people have done or are doing research on cartoonists. There are not many organisations like Indian Institute of Cartoonists, which is doing a yeoman service in documenting cartoons and cartoonists. Kerala Cartoon Academy is another such organization. Besides these two there are hardly any organization where one can get credible information about the cartoonists. This is ironic. Most of the readers do like to see and read cartoons, enjoy them. Many of them get amused, moved, agitated by the cartoons. But there have been very less serious research on cartoons and cartoonists.
Rural India is changing
The other day I saw an out-door advertisement- a printed flex of a local Dance Group Dhenkanal, a small sleepy town in Central Odisha. It read the group can provide dancers for and performers Stage programme, cheer leading and dancing 'for any occasion'. I had never thought that dancing and cheer leading could be a career option or even a means to earn in a small conservative town like Dhenkanal. It could be possible in big cities. But in small towns?
Things indeed are changing in small towns and rural India. Two factors are driving the change. One is smart phone- which is bringing the world to your palm. Geographical distance is not an issue anymore- when it comes to access to information. The second is rising aspiration, a spin-off of the now faded and jaded globalization.
Delay in Court Cases
Delay in court cases and its impact on poor people’s lives  have been the subject of many stories and award winning feature films. It has a serious financial and sociological  implication. As cases linger and people do not get justice- their faith on the system wanes. They want to get justice or what they think as justice- in any which way. This is dangerous for any society more so a plural and unequal society like our’s.
The government need to take steps to reduce the number of cases pending at different courts and new cases being filed.
Interestingly, government - both Centre and states - is the largest litigant involved in at least 46% of the cases with courts. This includes cases involving two government wings or PSUs. Since government in India furnctions in various shapes and forms, it’s imperative to have a high degree of coordination to lessen intra-governmental issues landing in court. But the least that should be done to unclog the system is not make policies that are sure to end in copious litigation.
Another step that needs to be taken is to increase the working days of the court. Courts have more holidays than any other government offices. That could be reduced.
Fixing a time frame for finalization of a case could be another way. Very often cases either linger or made to linger by vested interest. Fixing a strict time frame will take care of this problem.
Tailpiece: Difference
Difference between talent and God’s gift:
A teacher can deliver lecture for 2 hours on any subject. This is talent.
A wife can deliver lecture for 2 hours  without any subject. This is God’s gift.
And…. If your wife is a teacher, then it is a deadly combination.
The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal.
An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat, published in 2019 has been published as a book. Should you want a free e-copy, write to him at:

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi