2011 has been a heavy-hearted year for the left-brained. From Jehangir Sabavala, MF Husain, Jagjit Singh and then Dev Anand, India has lost stalwart after stalwart to the heavens. Mario Miranda joined this list of losses very recently. For most of us, these are celebrity names. But for some, these were a lot more than that.
By now, you all know that Mario João Carlos do Rosario de Britto Miranda was a caricaturist and illustrator who, through his works, made Goa known for more than beer and beaches and bikinis. You know that through his caricatures and illustrations, he brought forth Goa’s laidback life in the spotlight, used subtle humour, gentle satire, drew and travelled voraciously and that he was awarded the Padma Bhushan for his works.
Some of you probably know that Shyam Benegal’s Trikaal was loosely based on his life and family and centered around his home in Goa. In which case, you may also know that in Basu Chatterjee’s 1979 film, Baaton Baaton Mein, Amol Palekar’s character was based on Mario. And you may know that the man was known for his own distinct illustrations more than caricatures.
Even fewer of you have wept quietly and wandered over to Cafe Mondegar to stare wistfully at the mural he has left behind, or perhaps half-laughed, half-cried remembering his caricatures of priests. And only a handful of people have passed by St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, wondering if the stone walls of the esteemed institution still holds echoes of his footsteps.
For a couple of you, this loss will meet no relief. In some parallel lifetime, you would know he still climbs the wooden, rickety stairs of his alma mater, his keen observer’s eye on the lookout for his real life Miss Nimbupaani.
The fact remains that none of us really know the man that he was in totality. His entire body of work, his contributions, few immortalised caricatures and illustrations, a few press quotes, some remembered tales of shared incidents, can they all sum up the man that he was? Can you all, ever, really know Mario?
Mario Miranda died on December 11, 2011, in his sleep at his ancestral home in Loutolim, Goa. He was 85. And every news publication, every columnist, every caricaturist has shared this bit of information with you. When you Google his name, page after page after page is filled with his obituaries, with ‘in memoriam’ anecdotes and little snatches of information that you can lift off Wikipedia. Wiki is possibly the only online property that had so much written about him while he was still alive, but then, that’s the job of every encyclopedia.
And that is all you have left of a living, breathing, real person. The Mario who was more than the murals he painted. The Mario who was greater than his words of praise to an amateur caricaturist. The Mario who was greater than his awards, greater than the event of his death too.
So when I see one of my artist friends post ‘He promised me an original illustration 10 years ago, I am yet to receive it’, I feel we have not only lost the man to the heavens, we have lost his essence too. We have forgotten that greatness expresses through reality and reality is a lot bigger than printed articles and small caricature columns in newspapers. Bigger than promises, fulfilled or forgotten..
There will be legendary artists in the future too, just like there are now. Their humility will forever lie in their acceptance of the uncertain, the impermanent and the momentary. After all, that is how life looks like from several thousand feet above the earth.
Rest in peace, Mario Miranda.