Mr Godbole remembers

Legendary cartoonist Mario Miranda was a man whose voice you could fall in love with
A cartoon by Mario Miranda
A cartoon by Mario Miranda

I&nbspnever met Mario Miranda. But for many years, it was my onerous duty to call him once a month, sound as panic-stricken as possible (which was easy, because I was) and urge him to send his cartoons in on time. Mario was never in a hurry to do so. Once he did send them, it was a bit of a treasure hunt, chasing down the slim, brown envelope from Goa everywhere from the despatch department to Vinod Mehta&rsquos office (Mario always addressed the &rsquotoons to his old pal).

In the early days, I often committed the grave error of calling Mario in the afternoons. He was invariably taking a nap, and Goan siestas, as we know, are sacred. The telephone rang a long, long time, before someone deigned to pick it up. When he did come on the line, Mario was always convivial, conciliatory, and even apologetic. His gruff but warm voice blew into our office, conveying the tempo of a more leisured way of life into our frenzied urban existence. Mario was a man with absolutely no airs at all, a man whose voice you could fall in love with.

Once I called him in a tizzy to say the cartoons hadn&rsquot arrived, and he simply drew another set and sent it across. Because the first lot also arrived, we became the proud owners of a reserve set of cartoons. Bliss descended on the back page, though I still kept my phone appointments. And that&rsquos the way it was for several, peaceful years. Mario&rsquos hand grew shaky, but he continued to draw. When he made the occasional typo in the lettering, we just corrected it in Photoshop. Back from a trip to Brazil, he turned in an atmospheric feature on Salvador da Bahia (with accompanying illustrations, of course), and patted me on the back for editing it into shape.

Then, one day, the supply dried up. Mario was ill. Attentive readers will have noticed that we&rsquove been carrying reruns for a while. More recently, we went in for some strict rationing and modified the publishing schedule to just one cartoon a month.

When his wife rang me a few months ago regarding a tax certificate, she told me how much Mario wanted to draw for us again (and how he looked forward to the cheque) and how he would send something our way very soon. But it was not to be.

Well, as it happens, I almost&nbspmet Mario. (The only staffer to actually have the pleasure was Shougat Dasgupta.) One fine morning, a few winters ago, I found myself knocking at the very large door of the Miranda residence in Loutolim, Mario&rsquos ancestral village in rural Salcete. Mario was out. His wife, Habiba, looking pretty in a dainty dress, was kind enough to show me around their lovely home. I was asked to return in the afternoon, but knowing what I did of Goan habits, I never did.

I&nbspalways thought my-self adventurous but, reading about the brave new world of holidays available to the thrill-seeking Indian tourist, now I&rsquom not so sure. Beyond a couple of day paddles on the Indus and the Teesta and once having my rump tenderised on a cantering camel in Kutch, I realise I haven&rsquot ventured very far down the giddy path we&rsquore recommending in this month&rsquos cover package. But hey, that&rsquos not my job, it&rsquos yours I&rsquom just an editor you&rsquore the traveller, dear reader. You zorber, me geek.

Actually, right at this moment I feel like something of a traveller too, having just completed a six-hour car dash from broiling Delhi to the soothing elevation of Kumaon. And I&rsquom getting my kicks from escaping the responsibilities of closing day at OT&nbspand emailing this editorial just in time. I hope Maybe I am a thrill-seeker after all. And come to think of it, I&rsquom doing exactly what this magazine&rsquos cover story recommended&mdashlast month. So who knows Maybe next month I will throw myself off a cliff in a gossamer ball. Hmm. You first.

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