When the witty R K Laxman demanded five rupees from me

When R K Laxman demanded five rupees from me
Remembering the legend on his birth centenary

 “You have to pay me Rs 5,” R K Laxman told me. Sternly. Firmly. Looking at me straight in the eye. “Of course, of course,” I said reassuring the ‘uncommon man’ as I watched a smile escape his lips. And so, I perched myself on the hand rest of the sofa in which he was sitting. The photograph was clicked. I asked for another click. This time I squatted on the floor. Better.  “Now, you have to pay me Rs 10,” Laxman said. “Because you clicked two photographs when you asked for one!” Laxman said as he guffawed. The world knew his sense of humour. I experienced it directly. No money was paid – needless to mention – it was not expected as R K Laxman was being the best of himself – humorous.

We built a rapport because of an incident that had taken place just a few minutes before that. The legendary cartoonist had flown down from Mumbai and walked into my office, The Times of India, Hyderabad office, “Times House” on Road no. 3, Banjara hills, for a meeting several years ago. He was invited and accompanied by a former IAS officer who was heading the programme.

And then, a shocker. A security person, like it is the routine, was about to ask Laxman to fill in his details in the register as he was a ‘visitor’. The fact was that all arrangements were made for Laxman to see him through the entire process without a hassle. What happened was that Laxman without waiting for his host to usher him into the office had already stepped inside and the host was left behind by only a few steps.

I was on my way out of the office on a certain work and when I opened the door, here was I face to face with R K Laxman. The security person’s body language indicated that he was wanting to impress upon Laxman to go through some security formalities. The security person did not know who Laxman was. He was only doing his job.

My being there at that moment saved some blushes as I accompanied Laxman into the office with the host who had by then joined. We went into the brand head’s office room. And that is where I asked the branch head, Anil Kumar, to click the pictures of me with Laxman.

On Laxman’s birth centenary on October 24, 2021, I would describe him as a jolly person. That’s not just because of the unexpected and good-humoured demand for Rs 5 and Rs 10 but because of another encounter with him. We spent an evening together a few years before that when I was working for another newspaper. Girish Sanghi and his father Ramsharan Sanghi were there at an artistes-in-residence camp they had organised and Laxman and his wife Kamala were also invited as chief guests. The evening was well spent with Laxman, who in his characteristic style cracking jokes in an informal setting.  

Laxman breathed his last on January 26, 2015 at the age of 93 but lives in. His pithy cartoons are relevant even now and ever will be. As for me I have memories to cherish. 

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