Posts Tagged ‘Mario Miranda’

The Khushwant Singh “pre-obituary” from 1983

20 March 2014

Khushwant Singh, the self-proclaimed “dirty old man of Indian journalism”, has passed away at his home in New Delhi, at the age of 99.

Exactly, 30 years ago, when Singh was 69, the journalist Dhiren Bhagat wrote a pre-obituary of the “sardar in the light bulb” for the now-defunct Sunday Observer.

Ironically, Dhiren Bhagat was to predecease Singh by 24 years, and Khushwant Singh ended up reviewing a collection of his work for India Today in 1990.

Below is the full text of Dhiren Bhagat’s “obituary”, written for the February 13, 1983 edition of The Sunday Observer.

***

bhagat

By DHIREN BHAGAT

I was saddened to read that Khushwant Singh passed away in his sleep last week. What a quiet end for so loud a man.

How the gods mock the mocking.

Contradictions surrounded Khushwant at every stage of his life. He strove to give the impression that he was a drunken slob yet he was one of the most hard-working and punctual men I knew.

He professed agnosticism and yet enjoyed kirtan as only few can and do.

He was known nationally as a celebrated lecher but for the past thirty years at least it was a hot-water-bottle that warmed his bed.

He devoted his last years in the service of a woman who  decisively spurned him in the end.

He made a profession of living off his friends’ important names and yet worked single-handedly to diminish that very importance.

Empty vessels make the most noise but Khushwant was always full of the Scotch he had cadged off others.

He was a much misunderstood man. So before the limp eulogies start pouring in (how Khushwant would have hated them!) let me set the record straight.

As Khushwant once said, the obituary is the best place to tell the truth for dead men file no libel suits. (An agnostic to the end he didn’t believe in the Resurrection.)

***

Khushwant was born in 1915 in a rich but not particularly educated home. They were Khuranas from Sargodha who made good in Delhi.

His father, Sir Sobha Singh, was the contractor who built the city of New Delhi and who in consequence received a knighthood. In 1947 it used to be said (somewhat inaccurately it must be admitted) that ninety-nine per cent of New Delhi was owned by the Government and one per cent by Sir Sobha Singh.

After his initial education Khushwant was sent to England to appear for the ICS. He didn’t make it.

Later he would tell a story of how he had made it to the Merit List but how that year there was a reserved place for a non-Jat from Phulkian state (later PEPSU) and how some-one with less marks than him filled that place. But Khushwant was always a great raconteur so it is difficult to know what to believe.

Once bitten, twice shy. Khushwant didn’t try for the ICS again but instead enrolled himself at the London School of Economics from where in the course of things he acquired a BA.

The examiners decided to place him in the Third Class. After his degree Khushwant read for the Bar where he was equally successful. (His brother Daljit, now a businessman, was always the better scholar of the two.)

When Khushwant came back after six years in England a family friend asked his father: ‘Kaka valaiton kee kar ke aayaa hai?  (What has the boy done in England?) Sir Sobha Singh replied ‘Time pass kar ke aaya hai jee.’ (He has been marking time.)

It is unlikely the canny contractor was joking.

***

After the Partition Khushwant joined the Indian Foreign Service and this phase of his career took him to London, Ottawa and Paris. In this period he began publishing short stories on rustic themes.

In 1955 he shot to fame when a novel of his won a large cash award set by an American publishing house in order to attract manuscripts. It was a mediocre Partition quickie called Mano Majra (later published as Train to Pakistan).

Years passed. Khushwant kept writing books, on the Jupji, on the Sikhs, on India, stories, translations: many of them provocatively titled and indicative of his deepest desires, “I Shall Rape the Nightingale”, “I Take This Woman” etc. Some of these attempts were successful.

But success and cosmopolitan living did not spoil the earthiness of the robust Jat.

He continued to down his Scotch with a ferocity that made his hosts nervous. He

continued to tell stories that revealed his deep obsession with the anal.

He had a theory that all anger was a result of an upset stomach and instructed his son to ask his mother if her stomach walls troubling her whenever she scolded him.

In his more smug moments he attributed his own iconoclastic calm to the severe constipation from which he had suffered since childhood.

In 1969 Khushwant took over the Illustrated Weekly of India and embarked on the most controversial phase of his career. On the editor’s page Mario Miranda drew a bulb and Khushwant sat in it, along with his Scotch and dirty pictures.

Sitting in that cross-legged position Khushwant took the ailing magazine from success to success, all along illuminating millions of readers on the more outre aspects of the world’s brothels.

Once in a while he tore into a friend’s reputation. So great was our prurience that he became a household name in a short while. Fame he had, honour he sought.

In the early seventies an eminent Muslim journalist friend of Khushwant’s approached Rajni Patel. Could Rajnibhai fix Khushwant with a Padma Bhushan? If the honour didn’t come his way soon Sardarji would have a heart attack. Patel flew to Delhi twice and fixed it. Later Khushwant showed his gratitude in strange ways.

***

Then came the Emergency. Khushwant’s friends and admirers were very troubled by his stand: IndiraGandhi was Durga incarnate, SanjayGandhi the New Messiah and the highways of the land were clogged with smoothly running Marutis.

Many explanations have been offered for his position but I believe I am the only person to know the right one. (Khushwant in an unguarded whisky-sodden moment once opened up to me and told all.) And since it is only in obituaries that it is proper to disclose the little-known details of a man’s personal life I shall come out with it now.

Impotence had claimed Khushwant back in the fifties. At first he had been sorely troubled by this condition (most Jats are) and had tried several remedies, mostly indigenous. This accounted for his immense knowledge of jaree-bootees and his disillusionment with quacks.

When he had finally given up all hope of lighting the wick he had turned to other pleasures with a vengeance. (Exposing his friends’ affairs was a favourite pleasure: it was envy compounded with righteousness.)

It must be remembered that Khushwant’s lechery was of the mildest order: he as a voyeur, he could do nothing. Scotch was a palliative, but in the end even that failed to make up the loss.

It was Sanjay’s power that finally did the trick. So great was the vicarious pleasure the ageing Sardar felt that it went to his head. And after Sanjay’s death Khushwant lost his vitality, his vigour. He grew listless.

And then the quiet end. A lively man all in all. Even as I write this I am sure Khushwant is busy looking up the angels’ skirts. And since angels are constitutionally condemned to celibacy that should suit Khushwant fine.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Khushwant Singh on his last day at The Weekly

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

External reading: The journalism of Khushwant Singh

Bal Thackeray’s banter at FPJ’s ‘Malayali Club’

20 November 2012

T.J.S. George, the founder-editor of Asiaweek magazine, who worked under the legendary S. Sadanand at the Free Press Journal in Bombay, on their common-colleague and staff cartoonist, Bal Thackeray:

“Spicy coffee-house theories spread that Thackeray had developed a personal grudge against South Indians. There was talk that he was jealous of R.K. Laxman who started out in FPJ and went on to glory while he, Thackeray, was denied his due. In fact, Thackeray not only had high regard for Laxman, but counted South Indians among his buddies in FPJ.

“There was a good deal of banter. Thackeray called the FPJ news desk the Malayali Club. The celebrated crime reporter M.P. Iyer constantly  showered friendly abuse on Thackeray. But Thackeray would not take offence because Iyer used colloquial Marathi with a brilliance Thackeray could not command.

“At least on one occasion, Thackeray paid public tribute to Iyer and S.Sadanand, FPJ’s founder, holding them up as models for young journalists to follow.”

Read the full article: A cartoonist with a sense of humour

Illustration: Mario Miranda for Upper Crust

And so, India’s three best cartoonists are…

3 July 2012

It isn’t often that Indian cartoonists talk about their craft—or their colleagues and compatriots.

There is, for instance, a famous incident of the doyen of Indian cartooning, R.K. Laxman, being asked in the course of an interview with The Illustrated Weekly of India, about a younger cartoonist then working for the Indian Express.

Ravi Shankar? Fantastic sitarist,” was Laxman’s put-down, sotto voce.

***

Ajit Ninan, the former cartoonist of India Today and Outlook now a consultant with The Times of India, speaks about Laxman, in an interview in Star of Mysore:

Q: How would you differentiate yourself from R.K. Laxman?

A: I am a man of details and I think India is a country of details. Look at our architecture, the temples, fashion—everything has a lot of details. There is no school of cartooning and it is my seniors who helped me. I learnt by observing their works and have slept over their styles. Mario Miranda‘s details, Abu Abraham‘s simplicity of thought and Laxman’s works—something of everybody is there in my work.

However, Laxman’s cartoons had lengthy captions. I try to finish it within 10 words or even less. Almost 70% of my time goes into drafting captions.

When your drawing is so detailed, why burden it with words?

Q: Who would rank as the best Indian cartoonist?

A: R.K. Laxman—because he was a typical South Indian genius. He was a big crowd-puller and by nature he was funny, sharp and witty. Next is Mario because he brought out Indian architecture and humour, food, language, fashion through his drawings. He was a complete cartoonist and very versatile. The third would be Sudhir Tailang.

Image: courtesy Shafali

Only one journalist on 109 Padma Awards’ list

25 January 2012

For the second year in a row, there are no working journalists— i.e. those still burning the phone lines and greasing the totempole in anticipation of the big day—in the 2012 Republic Day honours’ list.

Aside from the recently deceased cartoonist Mario Miranda has been decorated with the nation’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, there is only one other living journalist on the 109-name list —Vijay Dutt Shridhar of Madhya Pradesh—who gets the Padma Sri.

In 2011, too, there was nobody from the Delhi set, although a number of names had done the rounds. Only the nation’s first woman news photographer, Homai Vyarawalla, and the veteran editor, author and columnist T.J.S. George had been found fit for the honour last year.

***

2008: Padma Shri VD, Padma Shri RDS and Padma Shri BD

2008: Why Rajdeep and Barkha Dutt must decline Padma Sri

2009: Third highest civilian honour for Shekhar Gupta

2010: Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria gets Padma Bhushan

2011: Padma Awards for Homai Vyarawala, T.J.S. George

2011: Did Niira Radia tapes impact journos’ Padma awards?

2011: Why Barkha Dutt needn’t return her Padma Sri

Did R.K. Laxman subtly stifle Mario’s growth?

12 December 2011

MARIO, BY KESHAV

The passing away of  the legendary Illustrated Weekly of India, Economic Times and Femina cartoonist and illustrator Mario Miranda in Goa on Sunday, has prompted plenty of warm reminiscences from friends, colleagues and co-linesmen, along with a vicious doosra.

Bachi Karkaria recalls her colleague from the third floor of The Times of India building in Bombay:

What can I say about Mario? That he was one of India’s most distinctive cartoonists? That he was arguably an even better serious artist in the detail and spirit with which he captured the places he lived in and visited? That he, along with Frank Simoes, gave Goa to the world?

That he was to the magazines of The Times of India what R.K. Laxman was to the daily paper? And, dare I say it, that Laxman was the Lata Mangeshkar who subtly ensured that the pedestal was not for sharing?

***

Pritish Nandy in the Economic Times:

Mario had a room on the same floor where I sat. And when I moved into the editor’s corner room at The Illustrated Weekly of India, a few months later, his room was next to mine. But that didn’t mean anything because Mario rarely came to office.

He worked on his cartoon strips mostly at home in Colaba and was awful with deadlines. This was largely because every afternoon, or almost, he would go for lunch or a long walk and would end up in a movie hall, all by himself.  There was no movie he didn’t see. It was the idea of slipping into a dark theatre and watching the moving picture that excited him.

***

MARIO, BY UNNY

E.P. Unny, the chief political cartoonist of The Indian Express, has a page one anchor:

To call Mario a cartoonist would be like seeing no more than the elegant living room he entertained you from, through a long warm Goan evening. “Take a break and be my guest,” he said. “Come and sketch the whole of this house. Should take a week or so if I keep a close eye on you to make sure you don’t run off to do the day’s cartoon.”

***

Ditto the cartoonist Manjul in DNA:

“Mario was the one and only ‘celebrity’ Indian cartoonist. He endorsed a reputed clothing brand in TV & print commercials in the 1980s. In 1979, Basu Chatterjee, director of the Hindi film Baaton Baaton Mein, based the looks of the hero, a reel-life cartoonist played by Amol Palekar, on Mario.

One can see his house in Shyam Benegal’s film Trikaal. Benegal shot the film in and around Mario’s house in Goa, a heritage building known for its Portuguese past and architecture. And no one can forget the iconic visual of a Sardarji sitting inside a bulb with books, which has graced Khushwant Singh’s column in almost every Indian newspaper for many years.

***

Ajit Ninan in The Times of India:

“We grew up in a time when all things worthy of awe or admiration came in pairs – Tata-Birla, Ambassador-Fiat, Coke-Pepsi, and so on. In the world of cartooning, Laxman-Mario was such a pair. All my lines I have learnt from studying the two titans of those times.

“Just as Bollywood brought India to the world, Mario brought Bombay to India. His mastery of architecture and of fashion trends was one of the keys to this. Mario’s ornate illustrations of the colonial structures of Mumbai wouldn’t have been possible for anyone with a weaker grasp of architecture.”

***

The cartoonist Jayanto Banerjee pays an illustrated tribute in the Hindustan Times:

As does the cartoonist Jayachandran Nanu in Mint:

***

Deccan Herald has an editorial:

With Mario Miranda’s death, the country has lost an eye that looked at it with understanding, compassion and irony for many decades and saw what was most often unseen and lost to most of us…. Everything was grist to his mocking eye and subtle lines—politics, society, business, attitudes, fashions and all that was part of life. His world was peopled with things and characters everyone recognised and lived with. The world he created out of them became the obverse one familiar to us and helped us to look at our own world with greater comprehension.

***

Austin Coutinho in Mid-Day:

Back in the ’60s, for me, Mario Miranda was ‘God’! I would lie in bed, incapacitated by asthma – wondering where my next breath would come from – and live in the make believe world of Mario’s cartoons. There was this little book titled ‘Goa with Love’ in which he had drawn cartoons of village life in Goa. The book would be by my bedside and it was as if I knew each of those characters on a first name basis…. My greatest regret in life will be not having ever met the ‘God’ of my schooldays. May his noble soul rest in peace!

Cartoons: courtesyThe Indian Express, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, Mint

Also read: Has R.K. Laxman drawn his last cartoon?

Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

Look who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

EXCLUSIVE: The unpublished doodles of R.K. Laxman

The 25-paise mag where R.K. Laxman began

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