Wednesday, March 09, 2005


In an earlier post, I have explained how I have been plagued with the lack-of-concentration problem. When I was a kid getting some primary education, I have often drifted off, and have had the misfortune, when the mists cleared, to find myself looking into the angry eyes of the history teacher.

"Boy, are you drawing in my class?"

Looking down at my notebook, I realized that I had done it again - drawn a vase (minus the flowers - I dislike flowers, much less actually drawing them) on the corner. The light source in the drawing was, as usual, above and to the side of the vase, thus enabling me to shade the vase asymmetrically, in an attempt to hide the fact that I always have had a problem with drawing symmetrical objects. The shadow seemed a bit too short and thick... if I could just-


This cry was usually followed by a sharp pain in my right earlobe. Another note would be scribbled in my diary, and my mum would then look through my notebooks, textbooks, the last few pages of my diary, there would be some amount of strain in the household that evening.

My mum has always been rather artistic - a talent that sadly skipped me and passed on to my younger sister, who is putting them to good use - she's learning to be an architect, and God help the skyline of Chennai. I, on the other hand, have inherited my father's style of drawing weird cartoons and some of his sense of humour. I still remember the day he was trying to demonstrate how easy it was to draw a cartoon - I was about eight, my sister was to be born in another month or so, and my father took a sheet of paper, a pencil, drew a set of ovals - a small oval on top of a HUGE oval, added arms, legs eyes, nose, ears, hair, etc. in his deceptively easy style, and when it was done, he said, "See? That's your mother!" I was immensely amazed by this display of skill and told my mum so, showing her the sketch. Being a keen observer of facial expressions, I could gather that her idea of art was considerably different from her husband's.

I don't remember when I started doodling in class, but I do remember getting into a lot of trouble over it. I have been whacked on the head, rapped on the knuckles, and one particular teacher - we used to call him "George Sir" - took pleasure in pinching the underside of the upper arm. If you have been pinched in this area, you would know that it is rather painful and makes you stand up like a bolt of lightning just shot through your chair.

On the bright side, there were some guys who used to like my doodles ( I started calling them 'cartoons', because over time they moved on from the corner of the page to occupying the entire page), and were interested in what form of violence I had inflicted on my subjects this time. Though my childhood was not disturbed at all - it was mostly happy, barring uncomfortable moments like the time when my mum found that her instruction of "when the milkman arrives, take the milk and put it in the large vessel of water (we did not have a refrigerator at the time) on the kitchen platform" followed to the letter, the result being that when my mum returned from our neighbour's place, she found a large vessel of highly diluted milk on the kitchen platform. My arguments on how I was unaware of the fact that milk is NOT supposed to be diluted and how she had not explicitly told me to put the whole packet into the water and not pour the milk, fell on deaf ears. To this day, she continues to tell all my friends about the time "your engineer (heavy sarcasm dripping off this word) friend poured milk into water".

But I digress. The point was that the violence in my cartoons had nothing to do with my childhood being unhappy. It was quite happy. And the cartoons were a bit funny, if you like cartoon noir. So I had a few friends who liked the stuff, and there was one guy - Harsh (not the english "Harsh", but the hindi one - pronounced "Hur(as in Ben Hur)-sh") - who used to give me ideas on new hilarious cartoons we could produce. We had our small group of friends who shared the sense of humour, comic books, and G.I. Joe toys that would have done any geek of the eighties proud.

Sadly, just when I was starting to impress the girl next to me with some "cute" fingerprint cartoons, my father got transferred to Tirunelveli, and that is where I spent the rest - and that means the most - of my adolescent life.

It was only when I got into engineering college about five years later, did I get back to doodling idly on the corner of my fluid mechanics notes. Though I never had quite an admirers' society again, the doodles filled time, and space (I later learned that these are one and the same, and the term to be used is space-time) of which there was a lot lying around in the four years of college. By space, here, I refer to the blank space of my notes, not the personal space available in my room, which was too small to swing a cat in. Not that I swung a cat in there, but a cat is not very different in size from a Nunchaku, and I did swing the latter in the room - once - with slightly distressing results. Other distressing results on swinging the Nunchaku included multiple injuries to my face, hands, and ribs, and the subsequent reduction in the confidence my Sensai had in me, which was not much in the first place. His final comment on the subject of the Nunchaku was, "You do not need an opponent at all."

Anyway, apart from doodling in class, I also tried my hand at 'serious' sketching, but realized that they attracted more laughs than my cartoons had ever did, so I dropped the idea.

Landing in Pune at my first ever job, I realized there was still plenty of scope for my doodling, in the form of department meetings, monthly review meetings, quarterly meetings, annnual meetings, brainstorming sessions, etc. So when I was not playing hangman with Shahina, I was amusing Swati or Mini into giggles with (they did not know it at the time) my "serious" artwork.

After I realized that Peanuts actually made a lot of sense - I had read the strips as a kid and had found them vaguely depressing, I think it was because almost all dialogues were followed by those three dots (...) which leave a sentence hanging in the air - I believe the technical term is 'ellipsis', and upon being introduced to Gary Larson, I once again decided to try my hand at cartooning, and the result is displayed here.

The background to this is the following: each year, all of us employees had to go through this rather painful process of "performance appraisal", also known as "What the heck were you doing the last 2,318 hours in this company?". A large percentage of our rating depended on how we displayed that we have indeed inculcated the company's core values - one of which was "Simplicity". Now please look at the image below.

Please let me know if you do not see an image here.

Now please laugh. The only chap who has, to this date (I sketched this one on a summer night about two years ago) laughed because he actually got the joke was Kakkar, and he is considered quite weird by some of his close friends, including yours truly. Which is pretty much what he thinks of me, so it was rather disturbing when no-one got the joke here. I thus refrained from creating any more cartoons, which was a bit of a wrench, especially as I had thought of one involving a medical student pondering over a semicolon...


Anurag said...

This is a terrific post and an amazing cartoon, Senthil. You are talented, and you should pursue the hobby.

What were you thinking when you poured milk into water? Milkmen already do that, don't you know? Thank God you are not into fluid mechanics.

Once again, very nice cartoon. It made me laugh. You got the office space right. Very well made. Post more?

Kakkar laughed, huh? I didn't know his sense of humour was this advanced. Or maybe he laughed because the geometric figure pasted on the wall of the guy on right is too easy to mesh. :)) I'm going to get a whacking when he read this, ain't I?

Good post.

Shrutz said...

Guess who scored a 10 on weirdness? After poring through each part of the cartoon... I am ashamed to say, I GOT IT!!! :D Very funny idea.. go ahead and post the last idea you had!

Senthil said...

Anurag: YOU GOT IT! Thank you, thank you, and you are right - I was lousy at fluid mech. Passed by the skin of my teeth. I suspect maybe my mum told my prof, too, about the milk incident.
And Kakkar won't be able to whack you, because (a)you're taller, and therefore have a better reach, (b)you're presumably stronger, and most of all (c) even if (a) and (b) don't help, you definitely can run faster and longer than him :) Citius, Altius, Fortius.

Shruti: YOU GOT IT TOO! Where were you guys all these years? The next time I have enough energy, I shall work on the semicolon idea. Thankoo, thankoo!


Anonymous said...

Eep! And, I got it too. :)

Anonymous said...

Eep! And, I got it too. :)

~ Shibani

Anurag said...

Likhoge nahin to bade aadmi kaise banoge? Write more often.

Senthil said...

Shibani: A-ha! Et tu! If enough of us join hands, we can have the psychological equivalent of the inside-out house of the hitchhiker's guide...

Anurag: I know, I know... but I have major initiative problems... should I demand a beer? ;)

Anonymous said...

Erm, just what was that cartoon all about?

(Btw, I'm going to be in Mumbai on the 2nd/3rd of April. Could you pop over for a day?)

Senthil said...

Egad! Saand, you peasant!
However, I shall educate you when we meet on the aforementioned date.

m. said...

LOL - super post! and yes, the cartoon was nice too :d

Megha said...

Awesome post and fundoo cartoon as well! Yes I got the joke, even if that makes me weird :) Glad to hear you got your dad's cartooning genes rather than your mom's artistic ones. Am sure a pretty picture would be just as great to look at, but I for one, loved the expressions on junta's faces!

Keep writing! :)

Senthil said...

m: Thanks! :D

Megha: Thanks to you, too! But there is the advantage of people taking you seriously if you have those artistic streaks in you... have you ever faced the embarrassment of making a serious, well-thought-of statement in the middle of a sombre discussion and have people around you break up into guffaws, slapping your shoulder and saying, "Good one!" ?