State funeral for cartoonist Laxman

Pune (Maharashtra) (IANS): In a rare honour, the Maharashtra government has decided to accord a state funeral to legendary cartoonist R.K. Laxman, creator of the iconic “The Common Man”, here Tuesday, an official said.

Laxman, 94 died in a private hospital Monday evening after a brief illness. His last rites will be performed with full state honours at Vaikuntha Crematorium here, around 12 noon Tuesday.

Top political leaders, media personalities, industrialists, film personalities and others have condoled his death, besides an outpouring of grief, affection and love for him on various social networking sites.

President Pranab Mukherjee said he was extremely saddened to learn about Laxman’s passing.

“I feel personal loss because I was both an avid follower and subject of his cartoons. India will the genium who made the common man into a national icon. He conveyed important social messages using humour as a tool and reminded the public that people in authority are fallible and human,” President Mukherjee said in a message late Monday night.

“Honoured by the government with a Padma Vibhushan, Shri Laxman was a conscience keeper to the nation through his cartoons. His death leaves a void in the world of creativity and social commentary which will be difficult to fill,” the president said.

Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao termed Laxman as “one of the finest cartoonists, caricaturists and the most effective commentator on issues of national and international importance to have dominated the news space for such a long time.

“Laxman understood the joys and sorrows of the common man and articulated the viewpoints of the silent millions of India for more than five decades through his eloquent cartoons,” Rao said in a tribute.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis will go to Pune and pay homage to Laxman, whose body is being kept for public viewing at a private college here.

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray whose father the late Bal Thackeray was an acclaimed cartoonist and friend of Laxman, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, himself a well-known cartoonist, and others are scheduled to pay homage and attend the last rites in Pune.

The brother of late English novelist R.K. Narayan, Laxman is survived by writer wife Kamala, retired journalist son Srinivas and daughter-in-law Usha.

He had been admitted to a private hospital around 10 days ago for a urinary tract infection and lung problems, and shifted later to Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital.

Laxman had suffered multiple organs failure, but responded well to the treatment and bounced back. Three days later, he was removed off the ventilator and shifted to the intensive care unit.

Renowned for his creation of The Common Man, which ran for several decades in The Times of India, under the brand-name “You Said It”, Laxman breathed his last late Monday evening at the hospital.

“He was first admitted to a hospital nearby Jan 16, but his condition showed no improvement. Later, we moved him to Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital where he showed a miraculous recovery,” his son Srinivas told IANS.

He added that Laxman’s 89-year old wife Kamala took the news of her husband’s demise stoically.

“The past 10 days have been extremely unnerving…the uncertainties of his health was a concern for the entire family…,” Srinivas said from Pune.

Born in Mysore, now in Karnataka, Oct 24, 1921, Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Iyer Laxman was attracted to sketching from his early childhood.

He was first married to Bharatanatyam exponent and film actress Kamala, who was known in film industry as ‘Baby Kamala’, and later graduated to adult roles as ‘Kumari Kamala.’

Later, the couple split and Laxman married Kamala, a prominent author of children’s books.

His son Srinivas Laxman, is a senior journalist who specialized in aviation, space and defence for The Times of India, from where he has now retired.