WHEN I INCLUDED A WHOLE CHAPTER ON CARTOONISTS IN MY BOOK ON Journalism ‘A TOWN CALLED PENURY – the Changing Culture of Indian Journalism’, I did not even mention Mangesh Tendulkar, the cartoonist who died a few days ago.
That was because of my ignorance about many cartoonists in language publications, like Tendulkar was in Marathi periodicals. But his one cartoon on death (see above) published following on his own death — made me think deeply about our own lives and achievements, the pride and ego about a momentary ‘greatness’ soon forgotten.
That was what Tendulkar’s cartoon was about. For the uninitiated the top letter on the tomb- stone (in Marathi) is ‘Kai‘ (short for Kailaswasi – meaning ‘now in heaven’) an equivalent of ‘the late’. Under it ‘Mi‘, in Marathi means ‘myself‘. It is, therefore, about his own tombstone getting the treatment which poles and such structures usually get from dogs.
So after death that is all we are worth. The ‘great’ blogs or books we have written, our inventions and creativity, contributions to the world community…are all worth just that.
The few who are remembered for all time to come are those like Newton who realised he was nothing more than one grain of sand on a beach, or the wisdom of Socrates who was wise enough to know that he knew nothing.
The world has seen millions who, in their own time, had done great things, but are now forgotten. The dust of oblivion has covered their “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing”, obliterating what they thought was great, but was nothing more than the stone for a dog to piss on.
Mangesh Tendulkar, using a cartoon with only two letters and a few lines, has made a comment on the rat race we all run, on the futility of pride and ego, on the meaning of life and death. He justified my contention, in the book, that cartoonists are editorial writers using lines in place of words. They certainly have much more readership than lengthy, ponderous editorials.
And some, like this by Tendulkar summarise a whole philosophy of life.