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RK Laxman and his indelible brushstrokes on the Indian mindscape

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By Swarnima Bhattacharya

In a glowing tribute to R.K Laxman, India’s foremost cartoonist, humorist and political satirist (to say the least), The Times of India called him the “uncrowned conscience keeper of the nation”.

I remember encountering the magical and pithy effects of Laxman’s deft brush-strokes, even before I knew that a nation and its makers needed conscience-keeping. In a middle-class, upwardly mobile family like ours, the daily news from The Times of India furnished not only our dinner-time conversations, but was also the repository of what my teachers fondly called “general knowledge”.

Adding immensely to that body of knowledge, introducing layers of pointed, good-humoured criticism to prevalent discourse, were the inimitable cartoons of RK Laxman.

The nameless Common Man, the ubiquitous, immediately recognisable old man, dons the attire of our grandfathers. The checked coat is a vestige of colonial legacy, and the dhoti, harkening back to a more Indian sartorial legacy.

He also wears an unchanging wry, bemused expression, similar to what I have often imagined on my father’s face, after a long day in a battered government office, or standing in a long queue outside the electricity office.

As I grew up, I didn’t need telling to make me know that the endearing Common Man was us-not one of us- but the essence of all of us consolidated on canvas. In an interview with Karan Thapar, RK Laxman recalled how the discovery of the iconic Common Man was rather an accident.

Overwhelmed by the sheer plurality of Indian identities, Laxman started off by drawing representatives of multiple religious and cultural denominations as mute spectators to national goings-on. The Common Man, as we now know him, emerged suddenly, mainly as a result of economising time and space.

And now, this prodigious accidental discovery, is an enduring institution unto itself. For over five decades, the Common Man has peered out of the small cartoon corner of The Times of India. He has been a silent, marginal figure who simultaneously occupied the most private spaces of bureaucrats, politicians, prime ministers of the country, presidents of the United States and even the corners of our drawing rooms.

He remained silent and brooding, with an occasional furrowed brow, but largely unfazed. Since 1947, the year of our independence, he documented for more than half a century, our challenges, idiosyncrasies, dogmas, follies and some moments of redemption.

In his own words, RK Laxman outlined the role and responsibility of a political satirist in so many words, “Ceaseless public criticism is the best guarantee that the liberty of the individual as well as of the nation will be preserved”.
Truly enough, the joke was on everyone. During the tumultuous years of the Emergency, the rights of the cartoonist were suspended for about 20 months. But soon enough, the tongue-in-cheek satirist hit out with this cartoon.
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Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru was a well-known admirer of Laxman’s sharp eye and incisive draftsmanship. After finding himself to be an object of ridicule in one of the cartoons, for his role in the Indo-China war, Nehru is said to have requested Laxman for a signed, enlarged and framed copy of the cartoon. Irreverence and dissent had never been more relished and welcome.

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Always exposing the avarice of bureaucrats, rapacity of politicians, self-serving deviousness of Ministers and the foibles of everyday people, Laxman never failed to add a dash to humour to commonplace frustrations. It was the quotidian that found centerstage in Laxman’s world of inoffensive derision.

Even though the Common Man was tucked up in the margins of the frame, it was his very relatable presence that has been institutionalised in the Indian political imagination. Unlike the screaming, busy-looking debaters that are now found in profusion in mainstream media, Laxman remained an astute political commentator with his dignity and sense of humour intact.

The fact that his mocking eye survived the ire of successive governments, rioters, angry mobs and offended corridors of power, says a lot about his artistic method. He possessed an uncanny ability to cut through the most entangled of national and social problems, and capture the crux of the matter in one raised eyebrow, or a twisted grin, or a swish of the wrist.

His satire didn’t need distended vocal chords or reams of paper, but just a few words. He found “reason” in chaotic discourse, as Shakespeare would say, as “two grains of wheat hid in bushels of chaff”. The Common Man didn’t topple governments, or change policy, or impact development.

Despite that, never has the Common Man, the weary yet optimistic Everyman, been more empowered and entitled than on the canvas of RK Laxman- not even through political parties whose names commemorate the proverbial “aam aadmi”. Heralded as the “uncommon” creator of the Common Man, RK Laxman breathed his last on January 26, 2015.

He left behind a glowing legacy of menacing caricatures on power, development, corruption and social inequity. As you stand beside the statues of the Common Man in Pune and Mumbai, you are struck with the realisation, that this is no celebrity, even though he is a celebrated iconoclast.

The Common Man is a poignant reminder of our own exalted and significant, but oft-forgotten position as the largest electorate in the world.

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Most Famous Railway Stations Of India

Indian railways stations are not only railways stations but are also one of the apexes of India pre and post-colonial history

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India has many railways stations famous for various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
India has many railways stations famous for various reasons. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma 

  • Indian Railways is one of the biggest railways network in the world
  • India has railways stations which are famous for various reasons
  • Indian railways stations are famous for various reasons from being beautiful to haunted

India has one of the biggest railways departments in the world. And also, one of the largest numbers of railway stations as well. Indian railways stations are not only railways stations but are also one of the apexes of India pre and post-colonial history.

Railways is of great importance for India because of its economic as well as historic significance. Wikimedia Commons
Railways is of great importance for India because of its economic as well as historic significance. Wikimedia Commons

Railways have a huge behind the increasing Indian economy, the revenue generated is huge. Railways were introduced by Britishers in India and since then it has become of the biggest assets of India. They are not only a mode of transportation but also have a huge historical background.

Here is the list of some of the most famous Indian Railway Station.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) or the Victoria Terminus (VT) as it popularly known is in Mumbai. It is one of the largest railways stations in India. It is also one of the most famous and has found a place in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of its magnificent gothic architecture. The station was built in 1887 to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is one of the oldest and largest railways stations in India. Wikimedia Commons
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is one of the oldest and largest railways stations in India. Wikimedia Commons

Lucknow Charbagh Railway Station

It is one of the most beautiful railway stations in India. It has 9 platforms and other 4 which are under construction. The Lucknow Charbagh Railway Station has a magnificent architectural masterpiece. It was built in 20th century by the British and looks more like a monument than a railway station. It is one of the two major railways stations in Lucknow and is well-connected to the whole country.

Also Read: Indian Railways to use artificial intelligence

Howrah Junction 

Howrah Junction in Kolkata is the oldest railway station in India. It is also one of the largest railway stations in India with 23 platforms. Howrah Junction can handle more trains than any other Indian railway station. Despite being renovated several times, it still holds the magnificence of the British and Bengali architecture.

Howrah Junction is the oldest railway station in India. Wikimedia Commons
Howrah Junction is the oldest railway station in India. Wikimedia Commons

Cuttack Railway Station
Cuttack is a city in Odisha. The Cuttack Railway Station in Odisha is one of the most beautiful and cleanest Indian railway stations. This railway station is famous for its architecture which is said to be inspired by the Barabati Fort, which is located in the Kalinga region of Odisha.

Vijayawada Junction Railway Station

Vijayawada Junction is one of the largest railway stations in India and is situated in Andhra Pradesh. It was constructed in 1888 and is famous for its architecture. It is also one of the busiest railway stations in India. It is also famous for its white structure.

Vijayawada Railway Station was constructed in 1888. Wikimedia Commons
Vijayawada Railway Station was constructed in 1888. Wikimedia Commons

Begunkodor Railway Station

Begunkodor Railway Station is in West Bengal. This station us famous because it is said to be haunted. Due to this, the station has been abandoned for 42 years. The station is said to be haunted by the ghost of a woman draped in a white sarees.

Also Read: Facts about Indian Railways you can’t miss

New Delhi Railway Station

New Delhi Railway Station is one of the largest railway stations in New Delhi and India. It is also the main railway station of Delhi. The railway station situated between the areas of Ajmeri Gate and Paharganj and sees the one of the largest crowd of commuters.

New Delhi Railway Station is famous for being the largest metro station in the capital, New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons
New Delhi Railway Station is famous for being the largest metro station in the capital, New Delhi. Wikimedia Commons

Barog Railway Station

Barog in Himachal Pradesh is a little railway station which is famous for its elaborate history. The railway station is surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is also famous for the ghost of its engineer which is said to be haunting the railway station. The station is also famous because of various folklores surrounding it.