Tuesday, January 27, 2015

R.K.Laxman as I knew him

The legendary cartoonist R.K.Laxman is no more. My mind  races back in time to 1978 when I had the privilege of spending three memorable days with him in Chennai.

I was the  Secretary of  the Tamilnadu Chapter of Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) in 1977-78.
Using my connection with his family I was instrumental in  organizing  a lecture-cum-demonstration by Laxman   at the Connemara Hotel. It was a joint meeting between PRSI and ISTD (Indian
Society for Training & Development)held in the third week of August,1978. In his typical tongue-in-cheek
style, Lakshman gave a talk and also demonstrated on a drawing board how he visualizes politicians.

In his mind, every politician is symbolized by an object which he draws out first and then converts it  into a cartoon, adding a few strokes from his creative pen. To draw the cartoon of Morarji Desai,
he first drew a flower pot and within a few seconds transformed it into a
cartoon of Morarjibhai. A water jug became Indira Gandhi. It was amazing and looked so simple.

During this visit he also participated in other meetings and media interviews all of which
I had co-ordinated. He was also kind enough to visit my humble home one evening for dinner. During the informal get-together I found him  very conscious of his celebrity status and was as sarcastic and humorous in person as he is in his cartoons. He also talked about the difference between being funny and humorous. He asserted that his cartoons were not funny but tried to be humorous.

At the airport, where I had gone to see him off, he asked me to look at him
and framed my figure  within  his four fingers. I was puzzled and wondered why he did that. A week later,  I had the answer in the form of a birthday gift I received by registered post - just two days before my 36th birthday on 30th August. It was a caricature of me with  amazing resemblance to his ever popular common man.. Though I was not as plumpy then, R.K. Laxman visualized what I would be like in future.. The cartoon showed me dressed in my favourite striped safari suit.  It  also captured the small line on my forehead, a reminder of an accident I had when I was six years old. Truly
a genius with fantastic memory and powers of observation.

It was a great honour to have a received a priceless gift from an all- time great cartoonist  The cartoon not only occupies a pride of place in my drawing room but also adorns the cover of my autobiography titled ` Courage My Companion`  described   as an `uncommon autobiography of a common man`.
Laxman`s common man?

May his soul rest in peace!

Feedback welcome on rvrajan42@gmail.com

Monday, January 5, 2015

A tribute- A pledge

                       Prabha Rajan      
                                (27th July,1951- 5th January,2013)
I was visiting an old friend, and my friend`s wife, who was meeting me for the first time after I lost my wife 2 years ago, asked me, “How do you feel about the loss of a dear one?” Friends have also offered condolences on my bereavement telling me “Don`t worry. Time is a great healer. You will get used to living without a wife”
I am writing this piece on 5th January 2015, which marks the second anniversary of my dear wife, Prabha’s demise. It is time to reflect on the two years gone by. Though I have got used to a life without the dominant presence of a partner, I continue to feel Prabha’s spirit in every room of my home, which she looked after passionately throughout her life. As a tribute I am trying to maintain the house as neatly as possible within my capabilities. Tending to her plants, which she nurtured with great love for three decades as her own `children`, which are continuing to blossom seasonally.
Through the Prabha Rajan Talent Foundation (PRTF), a non registered trust without a bank account, I am trying to encourage talented women to come to the limelight by supporting the publication of their creative writings.
I was delighted when Mangayar Malar, the leading fortnightly for women, in which Prabha`s first article appeared in 1988, decided to conduct literary contests in Prabha`s name this year. The contests cover one topic every month.  Started  in November, 2014, twelve contests  will be conducted in twelve months. The Prizes are being sponsored by PRTF. There cannot be a better way of reaching lakhs of women readers of Mangayar Malar with the message of Prabha`s life story ie. That age is no barrier to pursue one`s passions  in life.
 I am also grateful to Ravi Tamilvanan of Manimekalai Prasuram who recently got an order from Tamil Nadu Govt. for supplying Prabha`s first book `Kadambam` to over 1000 District Libraries in Tamil Nadu.
To commemorate the first anniversary of Prabha’s demise last year, we had a public function in which a collection of Prabha`s short stories translated from Tamil to English was released. This year the family decided to have a low key affair by giving a feast to the children of `Prabha Rajan Bala Gurukool`  adopted by PRTF, at a corporation school in Adyar- which is part of a national initiative to provide special coaching in the evenings to poor children in such schools. The scheme is being run by India Development Foundation an NGO founded by my dear friend Dr.A.R.K.Pillai of Mumbai. As a social worker Prabha used to enjoy volunteering her time at an orphanage, a blind school and an old age home.
Inspite of the care I receive from my children and siblings, I missed her the most during the time I was convalescing at home after the health issues I suffered last year-the minute to minute loving care that only a life partner can give and which a spouse can demand.
To my friends who suggested that I will in course of time forget Prabha , I would like to say that I don`t intend to forget her. My involvement in maintaining my home and the activities connected with PRTF are ensuring that I remember my dear wife every day. On this day I pledge to continue with such efforts as long as I am alive and active!