There is something so charming about people who spend their life in making a positive difference to the world. The protagonist of my story was one such person who dedicated a good part of his life in trying to get people to take up social issues. Through attention-grabbing and light-hearted cartoons, he highlighted a variety of social ills such as poverty, traffic woes, pollution, degradation of the environment, urban life, the poor state of urban infrastructure, to millions of people.
Mangesh Tendulkar was born in Kolhapur in 1935. He was quite young when his family moved to Pune, so he grew up a true-blue Punekar.
After he completed his BSc degree, he took up a job at the ammunition factory in Pune, but was always a passionate cartoonist, even though he had no formal training in it.
Tendulkar authored several books, including Bhuichakra, Sunday Mood (a compilation of 53 articles and cartoons), and Kuni Pampato Ajun Kalokh, among others. The recipient of several awards, he was conferred with the President’s Medal in 1980.
In various articles, Tendulkar has credited his younger brother, an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and social commentator, the late Padma Bhushan Vijay Tendulkar, for introducing him to the world of cartoons. It was a volume by a French cartoonist in his brother’s collection that spurred an interest in him and made him take it on as a vocation.
His unconventional approach was not restricted to his pencil and paper.
According to a report in DNA, every Diwali, for almost 18 years, Tendulkar would park his two-wheeler near the busy Nal Stop Chowk in Pune and distributed postcards to people who halted at the traffic signal. He is reported to have said, “Day by day the traffic is becoming troublesome. It’s not fair to expect that the police will teach everyone about traffic rules. Being a part of society, it is my duty to help the police in educating people. And sometimes [a] painting speaks more than words.”
A simple man, he preferred cycling and would almost always deny using a car, even when offered one by the organisers.
Even though several politicians featured in his cartoons from time to time, they all held him in high regard.
According to Afternoon Voice, he was one of the sharpest observers and commentators of post-independence India, one of the “most effective commentators on issues of national and international importance” to have dominated the news space for such a long time.
He passed away in 2017, leaving behind a void in the space he had created in society. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, had said that the people had lost a cartoonist who was a master at pointing out contrasts in our society through his art. He appreciated Tendulkar’s cartoons that were based on simple incidents in everyday life.
We, at The Better India, salute him for his undying efforts to make India better.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)