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BOOKS - THE TUNNEL OF TIME 

 

 

The Tunnel of Time - R.K. Laxman's Autobiography

BY SMRUTI

I had no clue I'd end up buying this book, honestly! 

I mean, here I was going to the Strand Book Sale with the sole purpose of buying as many P.G.Wodehouses as possible. I had stumbled across P.G. Wodehouse during my college days, thanks to my English professor and became an avid fan of his writings. Anyway, so here I was, having dragged along my unwilling cousin to the sale. After buying most of the P.G. Wodehouses on sale and few other books, I was just giving a cursory glance to the Penguin's section as an afterthought. 

Here, I chanced upon R.K. Laxman's autobiography. I have always read his common man cartoons in The Times of India, although not always understanding them. It intrigued me enough to read the gist given at the back of the cover. I found the excerpts given on the cover amusing and interesting and got the feeling that the book would be enjoyable. On an impulse I bought it.

I'm not much of a non-fiction reader and I have never read an autobiography before. So I didn't know what to expect in the book. The book starts with a disclaimer from R.K. Laxman. He makes it abundantly clear 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. By rights this should make the book sound disjointed and jerky, but it doesn't. The story flows smoothly and has the rare quality of making you feel like an omniscient presence sharing Laxman's life.

In spite of the book being an autobiography, the overall impression that one gets while reading 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 fašade, is a difficult call.

The book also contains mini travelogues about the places he has traveled. They give an interesting account of RK Laxman's wanderings in these places and the small discoveries that he makes there and of course, his own impressions about the places. Another interesting aspect of the book is the fact that Laxman has an affinity towards drawing crows and Lord Ganesha. According to him, these two subjects are a constant source of inspiration and relaxation. It is surprising that a political cartoonist would be happy sketching something as simple as crows! The few sketches of crows and Lord Ganesha that I have seen in the book have a life of their own. In each sketch, one can make out an almost human expression. In the sketches of crows, the mood or the expression is captured merely by the dot that forms the eye of the crow! One crow is angry; one inquisitively looking at the ground, and one is irately speaking!

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. One thing that kept jarring my reading was the number of typos and missing prepositions and conjunctions. It is highly disappointing from a publishing house like Penguin.

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.

BY SMRUTI


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Meet the new James Bond  

Deccan Chronicle in Chennai  

 Times to launch 'serious' newspaper  

 Indian Express buys stake in Mid-day

 Indian mediascape set to change

 Mediaah shuts shop almost as soon as Mediaah! Strikes! Again!  

 Slum demolitions and the false choices of Shekhar Gupta

 A journalist lost in a dance bar

 Oscar winners 2005

 The Ambani feud, and the pimping media  

 Feminism in the time of MMS and spycams

  Oscars 2005 potential nominees and winners

  Hindustan Times coming to Mumbai

 Creative bend: Debutant director Satish Menon's Bhavum

  Daniel Goddard - portrait of a photographer  

 The junketeering journalists of India

Bhansali regains his art... 

Review: RK Laxman's Tunnel of Time

Alok Kejriwal interview

DWS casting couch scoop!

 

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