Eminent cartoonist R K Laxman, who immortalised the hapless ‘Common Man’ with his devastating swipes at politicians but without malice, died here today at a private hospital at the age of 94 after suffering multi-organ failure.
“Laxman passed away at 6.50 PM,” Dr Sameer Jog of Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital, said.
Creator of ubiquitous mute spectator ‘Common Man’, Laxman was admitted to the hospital on January 17 for urinary infection. He suffered multi-organ failure and was put on ventilator.
Laxman, brother of late novelist R.K. Narayan, is survived by writer wife Kamala, retired journalist son Srinivas and daughter-in-law Usha.
His legendary spell on the Indian newspaper reader was cast after joining the Times Of India (TOI). His front page pocket cartoon “You said it” started in 1951, unleashing his iconic “common man”, a silent witness to the shenanigans of politicians who were supposed to realise his dreams, hopes and aspirations but betrayed him on most occasions.
His association with TOI continued through the six decades even as he got back to work after recovering from a paralytic stroke in 2003 that incapacitated his left side.
A Padma Vibhushan, Laxman also won the Magsaysay award in 1984 for journalism, literature and creative communication arts.
Condoling his demise, noted cartoonists described him as outstanding, towering figure who always had his finger on the pulse of the nation.
“India will miss you R K Laxman. We are grateful top you for adding the much needed humour in our lives and always bringing smiles on our faces,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
According to the doctors, he had been bed-ridden for many months, needed caregiver support for his routine activities and suffered from diabetes, hypertension and diabetic nephropathy.
He was under close observation of team of intensivists in Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital’s ICU for the last nine days. There were ups and downs in his condition, but it started deteriorating since last evening, and he suffered a cardiac arrest this evening.
The funeral would be conducted tomorrow morning, Srinivas told PTI.
Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Laxman, son of a school teacher, rose to become India’s best known political cartoonist while his ubiquitous ‘common man’ became an icon in himself. As the news of his demise broke, his admirers were seen making a beeline at the the statue of ‘Common Man’ in Worli in Mumbai.
Born in Mysore on October 24, 1921, Laxman was one of the seven siblings, including elder brother and eminent novelist, the late R K Narayan.
Ironically enough, the young Laxman had to face rejection from the Mumbai’s J J School of Arts when he applied there for admission, and subsequently graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from University of Mysore even as he continued with freelancing and contributed cartoons to Blitz, Swarajya.
While at college, Laxman started illustrating R K Narayan’s short stories in The Hindu and drawing political cartoons for local newspapers.
He took up his first full time job as a political cartoonist at Mumbai’s Free Press Journal.
Among other honours bestowed on him are B D Goenka award-Indian Express, Durga Ratan Gold medal- Hindustan Times and Padma Bhushan,
For the last several years he had settled down in Pune.
“He was the original God of cartooning,” cartoonist Ajit Ninan said about Laxman, adding that all the metaphors that emanated from his hand and mind was unmatchable.
Another noted cartoonist Sudhar Dar said Laxman always had his finger on the pulse of the nation.
Cartoonist Hemant Morparia said, “He was a towering figure. He outlived all his contemporaries. I assume his cartoons will in fact outlive him for a very long time.”
Sudhir Tailang, another member of the fraternity, said “Laxman is an institution” who created “respect for the job of cartoonists”.
PM Narendra Modi, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Sonia Gandhi condole Laxman’s death
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Congress President Sonia Gandhi today paid rich tributes to legendary cartoonist R K Laxman, who died in Pune.
“India will miss you RK Laxman. We are grateful to you for adding the much needed humour in our lives & always bringing smiles on our faces.
“My condolences to the family & countless well-wishers of a legend whose demise leaves a major void in our lives. RIP RK Laxman,” the Prime Minister tweeted.
In his condolence message, Ansari said Laxman, best known as the creator of the “common man”, touched the lives of millions of our countrymen by his incisive humour and socially relevant messages expressed through his immensely popular cartoons.
“I am deeply saddened at the passing away of Laxman, the most eminent cartoonist of our country in recent times.
“I convey my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family. I pray to the Almighty to give them strength and fortitude to bear with their loss,” the Vice President said.
In her message, Gandhi expressed “deep sadness” at the passing away of Laxman.
Describing his death as the passing away of an institution, she said that Laxman’s “Common Man”, for more than one generation represented India and served as the conscience keeper of the establishment.
“Laxman was an intellectual giant who will be missed for decades to come and will serve as an inspiration to many,” she said.
Condoling Laxman’s death, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said, “Through his cartoons he held up a mirror to society – making us laugh at ourselves, while putting the concern of the common man at the forefront.
“One of the most incisive observers and commentators of post independence India, his loss will be mourned by the whole nation.”
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said “the man who made us laugh has left us in tears.”
“The legendary cartoonist R K Laxman will always be remembered for his gentle humour. RIP,” Javadekar tweeted.
“We mourn the demise of R K Laxman, one of India’s greatest cartoonists. Our deepest condolences to his family,” Congress said on its official Twitter handle.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also condoled the demise of Laxman.
“India loses her preeminent Common Man. RIP #RKLaxman,” Omar tweeted.
In her message, Banerjee said, “Saddened to hear that the legendary cartoonist RK Laxman passed away a short while ago. May his soul Rest in Peace”.
JD-U chief Sharad Yadav said Laxman gave a voice to the pain and sufferings of common man through his cartoons, adding he targeted social ills and differences among political ideologies sharply and spread awareness among people.
Laxman passed away at a hospital in Pune this evening after a prolonged illness at the age of 94.
He is survived by wife Kamala and son Srinivas, a former journalist.
‘Laxman original god of cartooning, an institution’
The cartoonist fraternity of the country today mourned the death of R K Laxman calling him the “original god of cartooning” and an “institution”.
“… He was the original god of cartooning,” Ajit Ninan said about Laxman, the creator of ubiquitous mute spectator ‘Common Man’.
“I think he was one of the most talented cartoonists in the world because he had such a lovely overview of Asia, Western societies. All the metaphors that emanated from his hand and mind are unmatchable, I think, for a long time to come,” Ninan said.
Sudhir Tailang described him as “an institution” who created “respect for the job of cartoonists”.
He elevated the status of cartoonists in newspaper hierarchy, Tailang said of Laxman who passed away at a hospital in Pune this evening after a prolonged illness at the age of 94.
Condoling his death, Hemant Morparia said, “We learnt the grammar of cartoon from Laxman.
“He was a towering figure. He outlived all his contemporaries. I assume his cartoons will in fact outlive him for a very long time.”
Laxman is survived by wife Kamala and son Srinivas, a former journalist.