R. K. Laxman, a fixture of Indian society whose satirical comic strip featuring a character he called the Common Man appeared daily on the front page of The Times of India for more than five decades, died on Jan. 26 in the western Indian city of Pune. He was 93.
His death was confirmed by his son, Srinivas.
The Common Man was the star of “You Said It,” which Mr. Laxman created in 1951. Wearing a dhoti and a checkered coat, with a bushy mustache, a few wisps of hair, a bulbous nose on which perched a pair of glasses, and thick eyebrows that were permanently raised, the Common Man observed the contradictions, ironies and paradoxes of the world around him with a bewildered look but without ever uttering a word.
Political hypocrisy was Mr. Laxman’s favorite target. The Indian National Congress Party bore the brunt of his satire over the years because it was in power longer than any other party, but he spared no leader, however powerful.
“I am grateful to my leaders for keeping my profession flourishing,” he once remarked. “Alarmingly, the politicians walk, talk and behave as though they were modeling perpetually for the cartoonist.”
Rasipuram Krishnaswamy Iyer Laxman was born in the state of Mysore on Oct. 24, 1921. His father was a headmaster, his mother a homemaker. He had a sister and six brothers, one of whom, R. K. Narayan, went on to become a leading novelist and short-story writer.
“I do not remember wanting to do anything else except draw,” Mr. Laxman wrote in his autobiography, “The Tunnel of Time” (1998). He drew with chalk on the floors, walls and doors of his house and, when he learned to wield a pen and pencil, added beards, mustaches and shaggy eyebrows to photographs and sketches in books and magazines. At school, he drew caricatures of his teachers, who, instead of chiding him, encouraged his talent.
While studying at the University of Mysore, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, political science and economics, he began contributing political cartoons to various publications. His first full-time job was withThe Free Press Journal in Mumbai. Six months later he joined The Times of India.
His marriage to the dancer and actress Kumari Kamala ended in divorce. In addition to his son, his survivors include his wife, Kamala Laxman, a writer of children’s stories.
Mr. Laxman also wrote short stories, essays and travel pieces, as well as the novels “The Hotel Riviera” (1988) and “The Messenger” (1993) and his autobiography.
In 2005, he received the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second-highest civilian award. Among his other honors is a statue of the Common Man in Pune.