Presenting: The Chronicler

by Professor Shobha Madan

History is written by the winners. The Chroniclers write the truth. The Darbaari (Court) Chronicler still has to cater to the Royalty but the non-Darbaari Chronicler cleverly puts his interpretations for Posterity.

The work of Papaji is definitely a fruit of love but not in the conventional definition of the phrase. Actually thinking back I can honestly say that probably nothing about Papaji was conventional, he seemed completely immersed in his solitude almost as if contained in an invisible capsule cut off from the rest. And yet how and when did he manage to so keenly observe the ever evolving society around him unravelling in its technicolour complexities remains a mystery even to some of us who were close to him. A conscientious official in the Post and Telegraph department, a husband, a father, a friend he was all of that like many men of his class and times, but what made him so exceptional was his hidden passion to put down in exquisitely crafted cartoons his interpretations of the world. For over 50 years almost every day he would sit down on his table with his pens, brushes, ink and paper and pour out his pictorial comments with astounding wit and elegance.

He seemed like an indulgent alien who was detached from all the developments of the human society, unbiased by norms, questioning the unquestionable nonconformist to a virtue. Even the most mundane seem to excite him capture it in his creation and sometimes to the most extraordinary he would not even deign to give a nod of acknowledgement.

Given the impressively large portfolio of his work what probably is the most remarkable about these pieces is the uniqueness of each one of them –some detailed to the point of grandiosity, some merely a few lines but each of them bear a mark of the creator. And that slightly sardonic smile, indulgent wink, a nod of head and sometimes even a shrug of disgust which comes through the lens of the creator is the only thing that gives away anything about the artist. These pieces are all unsigned and undated. I have tried to date them roughly (decade wise) based on the paper used. Papaji also had no need for recognition from a world which he seemed to be merely visiting, a passerby of sorts, hence he rarely shared about his wonderful work even amongst friends and the idea of commercially selling it would have been unthinkable for him. And yet going through the collection which our family could retrieve, getting to know him through his work and seeing the world through his eyes we felt that this should be shared. And so here it is.

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