Sethu Das | July 02, 2022

Satire vs. Cynical Political Discourse

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Download the original article published by the Indian Institute of Cartoonists (July 02, 2022)

In this writeup originally published in the 'Cartoonists India' 2022 annual magazine edition of the Indian Institute of Cartoonists, Sethu Das, son of Cartoonist Yesudasan pays tribute to his father.

IT might be an effortless task to write about a cartoonist, not a father who happened to be a cartoonist because of overlappings and intertwined personalities. And I am given the challenging task of writing about my father, Yesudasan (1938-2021) — a writer, publisher, editor, scriptwriter, and celebrated political cartoonist.

 

For a state event celebrating his 50th year in the field of cartooning was kicked off by the former Prime Minister Shri VP Singh, the task of naming the year-long event was assigned to a creative writer. After a couple of days, he presented the title — "Yesudasan: 50 Years of Responsible Cartooning", which was immediately approved by the organisers. But the word 'responsible' was indeed very confusing to me, I even found it illogical. It took me a couple of years to understand what the writer meant by 'Responsible Cartooning'.

 

And I still remember accompanying my father as a small kid to see the dead body of his beloved sister at a morgue in his village. After paying respects, we both travelled back home covering a long distance by road while others were preparing for the funeral. I had no courage to ask him why we were rushing home in the middle of the night. As soon as we reached home, he moved to his studio to prepare his regular cartoon column for the Malayala Manorama newspaper. The immense pressure and sorrow he was undergoing after the demise of his childhood playmate, did not stop him from being 'responsible' and delivering the cartoon for the late-night edition. I used to wonder how a person in deep remorse could even think of entertaining readers the very next day. Even when he was not in a position to get up from his bed due to health issues, he somehow managed to do his pocket cartoons for Janayugam, a communist party mouthpiece. When we pointed out that in the last cartoon he had used a 'red' ink instead of black, he realised the error but had no strength to change or complete the same. We do estimate that in his career as a cartoonist, he must have drawn at least 60,000 cartoons and written hundreds of articles. He was a good orator and a meticulous planner — qualities that helped his career throughout. He inspired us to start the Centre for Social & Political Art (CSPA) and develop 'Indian Cartoonists on Tibet', a travelling exhibition. Yes, he truly understood the social and political responsibility of a cartoonist. Moreover, he was 'responsible' for making readers think and laugh for about six decades. His passing has truly left a vacuum in his wake.

 

Though calm by nature, my father was a restless person till the end of his life. He was surrounded by numerous friends and fans from all walks of life, but he was a loner in real life. He did entertain others and made them laugh, but lived a sober life. He did rub his shoulders with the rich, powerful and glamourous, but lived a simple life. He was a man of few words, but harsh with his political writings and satirical cartoons. He loved controversies but preferred a peaceful existence. His words did hurt others but disliked being criticised. He disliked crowds but loved being surrounded by good friends and humorists. I am not sure if he lived life to the fullest, but he lived a life that he considered ideal. In many ways, he was truly an inspiration to those who hoped to follow in his footsteps, but in many ways a man of contradictions too. As in life, beauty lies in contradictions!