Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Distorted Mirror by R K Laxman: Curios and Collectibles

R K Laxman, creator of common man is the most revered of Indian cartoonists. Many cartoons that he drew decades ago still resonate with the political and social situations of the country. The Distorted Mirror is a collection of his writings and includes short stories, short travelogues and sketches in prose.

After reading the book, I felt that stories are the weakest in the lot. For me they were a little bland and too simplistic. An Accident, the first and then best of the lot is a mystery about how a newspaper became a murder weapon. The Golden Frame is a story about a frame maker who accidentally spoils a revered photograph of his client and his attempts to restore it. Other stories are simple childhood anecdotes which has just a very low amusement value.

Travelogues are considerably better written than stories, though I felt more details would have considerably added to the reading pleasure. The writer just superficially touches on the aspects about the places that he visited. But we can clearly see his acute observation skills illuminating the sceneries that he describes now and then.

The third segment contains sketches about his life, career and society. The ones about cartoons are clearly great pieces, must read in my opinion because of the glimpses they give into his genius mind.

But the elements that stand out in the book are the illustrations by the author. They supplement the text beautifully lending it personality. It is not a surprise as R K Laxman is in his elements while doing what he does best.

As an admirer of R K Laxman, I am not satisfied with The Distorted Mirror. But it does not in any way takes away the greatness of the cartoonist in my mind. I have a feeling that these pieces are curios made for amusing himself rather than for public consumption, collected for commercial sake.


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