R.K. Laxman, India’s most celebrated cartoonist for more than half a century makes it abundantly clear at the begining of his autobiography that he cannot recollect events in their chronological order. And so you have a narrative interweaving past, present, and future at any point in the book. But yet the story flows smoothly and has the rare quality of making you feel like an omniscient presence sharing Laxman’s life.
The book thus reveals another side of this overwhelming personality – that of a writer. Being an autobiography, the overall impression that one gets while reading this book is that of dispassionate objectivity. This maybe due to the fact that passage of time may have lent objectivity or maybe because Laxman’s irreverence and a cock-a-snook-unto-others-kind of attitude. But there are instances where despite the light tone; the underlying injured professional pride is visible.
Some of his reactions and actions seem a little high-handed but again, may very well be his irreverence speaking. All Laxman’s thoughts, actions, and reactions are an honest, or as close to honest as possible, account of his feelings. You also get the feeling that here is a man who has little or no illusions about himself. Whether this quality has come due to passage of time and experience, or was always a part of his personality, or is a mere a façade, is a difficult call.
While the book is full of details of R K Laxman’s professional life, his personal life has just been given the token lip service. The overall effect is of him having recorded events in his personal life as fillers when nothing much was happening on the professional front. Glimpses of Laxman’s personal life are very few and far between. But one place where his natural emotion just bounds forth is when it comes to his granddaughter. Here, he is just like any other gushing grandfather, who cannot believe the joy that she has brought in his life and how life is unimaginable without her around.
On the whole, much of the book sounds like a grandparent narrating his life story to his grandchildren; just giving his impressions and not getting overly dramatic. But then what else can you expect from the country’s best known and best loved political cartoonist and satirist? All in all, the book is enjoyable and takes you on a delightful journey giving you a glimpse of R.K. Laxman’s life.
One thing that kept jarring the reading experience is however the number of typos and missing prepositions and conjunctions. It is highly disappointing from a publishing house like Penguin.