Home 2017 ‘Tickling funny bones’, for a hobby!

‘Tickling funny bones’, for a hobby!

written by Arun Inamdar May 19, 2017
‘Tickling funny bones’, for a hobby!

Not very long ago, during my visit to S. Africa, our guide-cum-cabbie surprised us all by a weird but practical gem of advice for protecting big cats. Said he: ‘If you ever want anything to be conserved, link it up to your food/livelihood. So, the best way for mankind to stop worrying about the survival of big cats is by starting to eat them, regularly!’ No need to say, I was simply floored by his logic! Of course, this can never be acceptable as a way of conservation! But when I started looking around, the stark reality of his argument was very much evident, in the shape of numerous life forms surviving around us all! Everything that is unconnected with our food/livelihood is slowly vanishing unlike the ones that are firmly tied to it! Interestingly, I also found this argument applicable to most of our likes, including those we continued with or didn’t, depending on how/if we were able to link them with our livelihood. I believe, same is true with our hobbies too! Not that our interests in them waned over the years, but those we have lost touch with, are mostly the ones we couldn’t connect with our lifestyles/livelihoods, for long! Not surprising then, out of that wide range of passions I nurtured during my younger days, cartooning survived longer, perhaps because, somewhere, it held a promise of connecting to many lives and even provide a livelihood support, if not an alternative!

Not surprising then, out of that wide range of passions I nurtured during my younger days, cartooning survived longer, perhaps because, somewhere, it held a promise of connecting to many lives and even provide a livelihood support, if not an alternative!

My romance with art started right from my childhood! I remember having a flair for sketching then, thanks largely to the encouragement received from my chawl kids who went back home with wide smiles of satisfaction after getting their thumb nails drawn. This same flair fetched me 1st prize in the district level painting contest during 2 consecutive years, as well as an award from the school for outstanding merit in art. I also remember getting fully carried away on several occasions while doing some artwork and totally forgetting everything around me including place/time, although I never ever believed in art as something of a God-sent gift!

The conscious shift from drawing portraits and sketching to cartooning and caricaturing came much later, as I increasingly realised my abilities to adapt to the rules of this art of distortion.

My first recognition in cartooning came as a consolation prize for a caricature of Dr. Salim Ali, in a national contest organised by the Trade Fair Authority of India (TFAI), way back in the early eighties. This gave me a confidence that I have something in my work that appeals to the outside world. Thereafter, more often, my motivation came more from the work being dished out in the print media… the more I saw the cartoons in local newspapers, the more I started feeling that I could do far better!

My earliest cartooning attempt that I remember (reproduced here as Voter’s Dilemma), was a on a topical issue, Ms. Indira Gandhi Vs Babu Jag Jivan Ram, dates back around 1977, seemed quite fine, but then I had absolutely no one to help guide me in this field, except may be, a few Punch issues in the IITB library. A few artists I looked up to, were struggling to make their ends meet. As a result, the artist/cartoonist in me remained on the back foot for long, as I could hardly muster courage to consider art as a serious livelihood option.

The conscious shift from drawing portraits and sketching to cartooning and caricaturing came much later, as I increasingly realised my abilities to adapt to the rules of this art of distortion.

It won’t be totally unjustified if I attribute a major part of the credit for my cartooning hobby to Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, the former Indian PM, in a literal sense! True, I wasn’t a complete novice in cartooning, when, the P.M. changed my weekly working days from 6 to 5 as a central government employee, leaving a full day of free time every week for me to spend on anything I loved! But this move suddenly created a time void in my life, that begged to be filled! Ultimately, for any hobby to flourish, not just an inclination, but ample time is equally essential, besides other things.

 

Having armed with a day’s time every week, frustrated by the uncertainty of the IITB job (Most IIT Centres were then considered temporary, for a long time!), rising family responsibilities (married, had children!), welcomed by print media all over Mumbai and most importantly, the urge to make an extra buck through this hobby, ultimately added up to form a much needed conducive environment! Mid 1980s to 1990s was probably the busiest period of my life, as I was freelancing for over a dozen publications in Mumbai and also balancing it out with the IIT job. The most important aspect of it was, it kept me in touch with my pencil and the brush and helped me with a psychological satisfaction of doing something I loved. It also funded my experimentation with variety of media, styles, implements, literature purchases and even a cell animation course that I did with Mr. Rammohan, the famous animator, that was fully funded from the 1st prize money of 15 grand that I received from this very hobby. Half a dozen awards followed, despite the fact that there were not many contests being held nationally. Seemed like people got to know my name and I got invites for TV shows, Bollywood work, newspaper interviews and even an acting role in a movie, that I graciously declined. The whole thing kept me alive and ticking as an artist, got me to meet interesting celebrities from various walks of life and most importantly, kept me from going insane from the petty job tensions that plagued my department colleagues. What more could a guy born in a hot, dusty township like Solapur, with a harsh and poor childhood, ask for, when the hobby alone offered so much without ever expecting anything. As if that was not enough, I did receive quite an appreciation and applause from IIT colleagues for the comments I kept passing at various IIT issues through my cartoons that regularly found a place in various Institute publications, including a special book on my caricatures and cartoons alone.

Looking back, I’m quite overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude towards this silly little hobby that I loved pursuing for so long, despite the lazy being that I was and still am. It has rewarded me with the joy of creation in addition to mental peace (sanity?!), while exposing me to a wide variety of experiences that I can cherish for long.

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2 comments

Avinash Sankholkar May 25, 2017 - 8:39 am

Arun, Hope you had applied for the TOI Cartoonist search contest and win it to replace the void left by RK Laxman’s You Said it!

Reply
Avinash Sankholkar May 25, 2017 - 8:40 am

Arun, Hope you have applied for the TOI Cartoonist search contest and win it to replace the void left by RK Laxman’s You Said it!

Reply

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