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Monthly Archives: April 2020

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Corona, Cartoons & Sketches of Suparno

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Remember R.K. Laxman’s “You Said It”, the timeless cartoon strip published in Times of India that delighted millions of readers every morning?

Amid this corona catastrophe, when we’re missing Laxman and his immortal creations, faraway across the Atlantic in Maryland, US, Suparno Chaudhuri, an Indian digital marketing strategist, has taken up the cudgels against the powers-that-be through his incisive and insightful cartoons.

Laxman through his razor-sharp, and often virulent satirical cartoons, had exposed unbridled greed, rampant corruption and hypocrisy of Indian politicians. His portrayal of common man’s woes, their wretched conditions and helplessness and, above all, the precariousness of human life touched one and all.

Chaudhuri is now engaged in drawing cartoons touching on how our life is impacted in this extraordinary time. His cartoons range from homeless people to President Trump and sometimes, to pure, unalloyed fun. “While the pandemic has exposed the fragility and vulnerability of humans, I took to cartooning to reveal different sections of our society and ridicule Trump’s off-the-rails briefing and his ham-handed approach to battle the contagion. Sometimes they’ve global appeal, some are very American,” Chaudhuri said on telephone from his house in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Six feet distance during pandemic - Suparno's cartoon

Chaudhuri recalls Laxman saying: “The role of a cartoonist is not unlike that of the court jester of yore. His business in a democracy is to exercise his right to criticize, ridicule, find fault with and demolish the establishment and political leaders, through cartoons and caricatures.”

“I used to draw cartoons and sketches while I was a student of Presidency College in Kolkata. I was fascinated by the cartoons of Laxman, Kutty, Abu Abraham, Sudhir Dar, Chandi and O.M. Vijayan. I remember Laxman’s frazzled character, known as the Common Man (Times of India), Kutty’s wit and satire (Ananda Bazar Patrika), Abu’s analytical and hilarious (Indian Express) and Vijayan’s cerebral and sublime (The Statesman) cartoons,” he recalled. He follows American political cartoonists meticulously and is a big fan of New Yorker genre of cartoons.

“I must of course mention K. Shankar Pillai, fondly known as Shankar, the father of political cartooning in India who taught a nation to laugh at itself,” Chaudhuri said.

Shankar lampooned Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, mercilessly in some of his cartoons and yet there was a mutual admiration between them. Nehru even famously remarked “Don’t spare me Shankar”, he said.

Talking about Shankar’s brilliant caricatures, Chaudhuri remembers what Nehru said of him: “Shankar has that rare gift, rarer in Indian than elsewhere, without the least bit of malice or ill-will, he points out, with an artist’s skill, the weaknesses and foibles of those who display themselves on the public stage. It is good to have the veil of our conceit torn occasionally.”

Chaudhuri came to Kolkata for a short visit when the coronavirus was wreaking havoc in Wuhan which began in December last year. He went back to the US in mid-March while the Trump government was still downplaying the oncoming disaster. “The US government could hardly foresee the devastating impact of the virus on the country,” he said.

“New York, the city that never sleeps, is now almost a death valley; it’s shocking to see so many people perishing there every day,” Chaudhuri said.

“I thought I’d make some drawings of the US President to evoke laughter and point out his preposterous, utterly absurd advice and flawed strategy to combat the contagion,” he said. “At the same time, many ideas cross my mind for simple, pure fun. I’d be happy if my readers get a sense of positive perspective from my cartoons during these dark and depressing days.”


Suparno Chaudhuri

E-mail: suparno2k@yahoo.com


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Combating Covid: Tale of a silent warrior in India

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While the media across the world are covering stories of ‘celebrity’ donations amid the Covid pandemic, there are fewer stories about the real heroes who’re battling on the ground and fighting silently behind-the-scenes, away from media glare without bothering about publicity and media blitz.

Tucked away in the remote villages of central India, a septuagenarian doctor (who’s been battling to run a school for poverty-ridden tribal girls since 1992 against insurmountable odds) is now fighting another battle: providing food and essentials to the poor Baiga tribal community.

Pondki, a village, 498km from Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh (central India)

The battleground is Pondki, 498km from Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh, India and leading the battle from the front is Dr Prabir Sarkar.

“I understand desperate times call for desperate measures. And social distancing is the only way to stem the spread of this deadly virus. But, for the Baiga tribal community, hunger is the everyday ‘virus’ they confront even in ordinary times,” the 71-year-old bachelor, who’s reluctant to hog the media spotlight, said.

On March 24 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nationwide lockdown at 8pm, Dr Sarkar knew the challenges ahead — from reaching out to the Baigas living in inaccessible terrain to abysmal health care facilities.

Villagers wait their turn to get rice and vegetables

“In normal circumstances, I face huge funds crunch and literally beg for funds to run my charitable school,” he said. “Without funds how would I save these poor tribal people in this challenging and difficult times? I know how tough it’d be to raise funds now,” he added.

Vikas Chandel, a student from Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, and some locals pitched in and extended support to Dr Sarkar and joined the battle. “It’s a monumental task, especially transporting groceries and food to the needy as the poor people live in the remote forests in the hills and the road condition is appalling,” Chandel said.

Dr Sarkar and his brigade have been providing food every day to 24 villages — Gadhi Dadar, Pyari, Katurdona, Garjanbija, Harrapani, Hirnachhapar, Sanchara, Bijaura, Dumartola, Bendi Baigantola, Bhatibara, Maikal Pahar, Dadra Silwari, Khale Bhavar, Jaitahri, Shitalpani, Belapani, Pakripani, Navatola, Jaleswartola, Farrisemar, Miriya, Sarhakona and Umargohan — in Anuppur district.

Volunteers arrange vegetables before distribution as villagers wait maintaining ‘social distancing’

“I’m grateful to my volunteers – Hari Shankar Kumar, Dipendra Tyagi, Makhan Singh, Yedukondalu and Naseer. All my efforts would have been futile without their untiring and selfless service. They never grumble; they never whine. They’ve been slogging braving the heat and dust to transport the essential items to the poor,” he said.

“I’m coordinating with the district administration,” he said. Chandra Mohan Thakur, the district collector, has provided 25 quintals of rice and Rs 1000-1300 per family for 10 days. “I don’t know what will happen after that,” he said.

The central government is focusing only on cities and suburban areas; it hardly cares for the devastating impact the pandemic virus will have on these tribals, he said.

With funds running out fast, a worried Dr Sarkar has sought help from public. Even though the response has been lukewarm, he’s not unnerved; his commitment is unwavering. “We’ll continue our battle despite knowing more difficult and challenging days lie ahead,” he added, his invincible spirit and unflinching zeal unmistakable.

Volunteers deliver food packets at door step

“In a corporate-driven globalized world, where money is the motive and fraud is the means and only business and profiteering matter, the ‘virus’ has shown how fragile and vulnerable we humans are,” he said. “In a world of brutal inequality and unbridled greed, the coronavirus is a great equalizer.”

As the sun slowly disappears on the horizon and darkness descends over the hills, Dr Sarkar sits down and urges his men to prepare for tomorrow’s battle. He knows the battle is far from over; he knows he has “promises to keep and miles to go before he sleeps”.

Villagers wait under the blazing sun to receive food and essential items

A face of hunger and deprivation

Dr Prabir Sarkar (in the middle) with his army

Your empathy for these poor folks and even a small contribution can make Dr Sarkar’s Mission Possible.

Donations from India

Beneficiary’s name: Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Sevashram

Account number: 11512670177
Bank: State Bank of India, Amarkantak
IFSC Code: SBIN0004674

Donations from abroad

Beneficiary’s name: Sri Ramakrishna Vivekananda Sevashram

Foreign Currency Account Number – 32695670646
Bank – State Bank of India, Amarkantak
IFSC Code – SBIN0004674

Please make donation in INR (Indian rupees)

Dr Sarkar’s organization is eligible to receive foreign funds under government of India Foreign Currency Regulation (FCR) Act

  1. Donations are exempt under section 80G of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
  2. The organization is registered under section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961.



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