On a cold December night in 1975, over a whisky session, my uncle R.K. Laxman, or Doodu, as he was called at home, began doodling in a scrapbook at the behest of my father, his elder brother R.K. Srinivasan. He found Laxman’s sketches fascinating, and this sparked off a tradition between them. On holidays, Laxman would visit my father in Delhi, where he was a government officer. The brothers would chat about everything, from religion to poverty, and Laxman would doodle in the scrapbook while they talked. Later, when my father moved to Mysore, taking the scrapbook with him, this ritual between the two continued till his death in 1991. The unpublished doodles, 97 in all, made over 16 years, seem meaningless to most people. Even I am able to understand only a few, just the ones I was witness to the making of. Many people who have seen the doodles have called them “nonsense”; others have found them “brilliant, philosophical”. But only Laxman or my father could explain the meaning of all of them. Some of the doodles were inspired by conversations between the two; some were triggered by real incidents, like a drawing that portrays goats blocking a road. Our family, along with Laxman, was travelling by car from Bangalore to Mysore, when a herd of goats blocked our way. I was driving, and I kept honking, hoping the goats would clear a way, when Laxman quipped, “The aads are against us (punning on ‘odds’, said the Tamil way, and also aadu, Tamil for goat)!” And that became a doodle.
As told to Neha Bhatt
(‘Doodu’s Doodles’ will be on show till March 10 at the Indian Cartoon Gallery, Bangalore)