It all started with a DM (Direct Message on Twitter) from Gitanjali Sriram that I received about a month back. Actually, there were 3 of them.
Hey! My dad published a book last yr ‘Indira Gandhi: The Final Chapter’ which chronicles her story from the Emergency to her assassination
The story is told thru the political cartoons he was doing for the Indian Express during those year. It’s a fab book.
Would you like a few signed copies to give away during one of the TSBC sessions?
Ahem… Would I like a few signed copies…? ;-) Once I had conferred with Raghav and Rahul, my #TSBC co-founders, I sent a DM to Gitanjali accepting her offer. She, in turn, sent me the email address of Suraj ‘Eskay’ Sriram, her father and author of the book giveaway, to work out the formalities involved. And a few emails later we were set.
I am embarrassed to admit now that, at that time, I had not heard of the book or the author. A quick online search revealed that Indira Gandhi: The Final Chapter (Niyogi Books, 2011, pp.176) was a glimpse of the Indian political and social scene through Eskay’s cartoons and illustrations, during the last few years of Indira Gandhi’s political regime. I also asked my older brothers and Amma if they had heard of Eskay. To which I received an immediate “Of course !” followed by a “Why do you ask?” When I gave them the background details, I was told by all of them that I don’t read enough ! :-(
But I digress from the main topic of this post: Meeting “Eskay”, which happened last Saturday in Pune. And what a meeting it was !
I can’t remember how much time I spent with Eskay and Kalpana, his wife. But I can remember everything that we spoke about.
Of how very few people discuss politics openly at home or elsewhere. I was initially taken aback when Eskay said this, But then I thought of my family where we discuss music, dance, books, sports, science and other topics, but never politics. And I know that none of my friends or their families discuss politics either. When I acknowledged this as much, Kalpana said that everyone in their family discussed politics, including her 94 year-old mother-in-law !
Of #TSBC and how we began. Of what Raghav, Rahul and I do outside of #TSBC. Of my travels and the books I read, my day job and workplace and responsibilities.
Of that awkward moment (entirely mine) when a really bemused Eskay asked about Twitter and how it worked. And my stumbling and bumbling answer to that query which left Eskay and Kalpana completely unenlightened, though they were too polite to say so.
Of Eskay showing me his sketches of Mahabalipuram done in the mid-1960s. And of stunning original artwork by other artists on his walls.
Of the “common man” or the “mango people” and how the definition has changed over the years, with many types of the common man emerging today.
Of that jaw-dropping moment when Eskay said that he was entirely self-taught and did not have any professional training in drawing or sketching. Experience, a keen observation of life around him and the passion to draw were what drove him on sketch every day.
Of Eskay and Kalpana’s life as civilians in India after many years in the Indian Navy, and then some more years in the United States.
Of Eskay’s dreams of travelling and sketching through India.
Of Eskay’s conviction that only the youth of India could bring the country out of the morass it is in and that they have to take charge of the country immediately.
Of the status of ‘cartooning’ as an art and how it is dismissed as simple and sometimes a kiddish activity. I could not agree with Eskay more when he said that a cartoonist has to match his/her brains with his/her pen/brush/pencil.
Of Eskay’s generosity in giving 10 signed copies of his book for a #TSBC event, including copies for its 3 founders. Here’s a picture of Eskay’s inscription on my copy :-)
Of Eskay’s forthcoming book on contemporary issues that India faces. I got a sneak peek at the cover and let me just say this: the book can’t come out soon enough for me ! Eskay promised to autograph my copy of his new book as well.
When I said my thank yous and goodbyes to Kalpana and Eskay, it was with the promise to keep in touch. And I know that this will be one promise that will not be difficult to keep.
Back home in Mumbai, I have barely had a chance to look at my copy of Indira Gandhi: The Final Chapter. Amma has decided that she will read it first and my brothers are in queue after that. The niece is intrigued by all the interest over the book and is demanding that she gets priority to read it as she is the one preparing for a career in political science. My suggestion for everyone to get their own copy of the book has been ignored completely. Looks like I will have to wait for my turn to read this book. :-(
But so far, what little I have seen of the book has been fantastic. The context, setting and characters who populate the book may be set in the late seventies and early eighties, but that doesn’t make the book any less relevant today. In fact, readers will be able to draw parallels with many of the cartoons to contemporary times. While this book is a very important record of our visual history, it is also an example that some things never change and are timeless.
Eskay and Kalpana, I came away feeling refreshed and energised and inspired. Thank you so much for meeting me and for the giveaways for #TSBC. And Gitanjali, as I told you before, your parents rock. Thanks for your love, continuing encouragement and support for #TSBC.