Laxman, born in Mysore, India was a cartoonist who created the daily comic strip You Said It. The strip chronicled Indian life and politics through the eyes of ‘the common man,’ a silent observer in a distinctive checked coat who served as a point-of-view character for readers.
Laxman was the youngest of seven siblings, and he developed an affinity for drawing at an early age. While at Maharaja’s College in Mysore, he illustrated his elder brother’s stories in The Hindu newspaper. He subsequently turned to political cartoons, which he drew for local newspapers. He worked at The Free Press Journal in Mumbai with Bal Thackeray, who was a cartoonist before founding the Shiv Sena party. In 1951, Laxman moved to The Times of India, where he would spend the rest of his career. There he created You Said It, a strip that would adorn the newspaper’s cover into the 21st century. Laxman’s ‘common man’ was witty and sarcastic but never venomous, and his outlook was said to represent that of countless average Indians.
Through the bald, bespectacled, and dhoti (a traditional Indian wraparound garment)-wearing ‘Common Man,’ Laxman satirized Indian life and commented on numerous issues in India, including corrupt politicians. Laxman was quoted saying: ‘I wouldn't say politicians represent the country. I don't think they do. They have forgotten the common man, they think the common man belongs to them, to serve them’.
Laxman published numerous short stories, essays, and travel articles, some of which were collected in The Distorted Mirror (2003). He also wrote the novels The Hotel Riviera (1988) and The Messenger (1993); the short-story collection Servants of India (2000); and an autobiography, The Tunnel of Time (1998). In addition, numerous collections of Laxman’s cartoons have been published. In 2005 he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour.
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