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“An Indian Cartoonist's perspective of Life in the Covid era\" by Saleem M Anwer Tooning in... Hot summer afternoons in my sleepy hometown Allahabad (now Prayagraj) were ideal settings for my brothers and I to rummage through my father’s “library” - a substantial collection of books and periodicals - during our growing up years. It was during one such foray that I chanced upon some diligently preserved cartoon scrap books by my father, an ardent fan of the “uncommon man” - the late R K Laxman, Magsaysay award recipient and a cartoonist par excellence! What started as mere curiosity of a young schoolboy soon developed into fascination, and ultimately a deep passion for this unique art form. I found myself studying wide ranging styles of various cartoonists and the subtle way they took digs at social, political and contemporary issues, camouflaged in wit and humour. The sheer brilliance of their work had a deep impression on me. The bug had bitten and a fledgling cartoonist was thus borne! I started a collection of my own under the mentorship of my father, and a circulation that largely remained limited to my circle of friends, acquaintances and family. Cartooning and cartoonists have been described variously over the ages. To me, they could well be defined as intense observers of social and political landscape and silent commentators of happenings therein, using pictorial mirth as their favoured medium. Relying heavily on the old saying about a picture speaking louder than a thousand words, cartoonists evolve their own style of commentary through exaggerated drawings and sketches, from minimalistic to intricate and 2 elaborate ones. While there have been, and still are, many brilliant cartoonists, my personal favourite, as for millions of his fans in India and abroad, has remained the incomparable R K Laxman, who could set you thinking and laughing at the same time, with a few deft strokes of his brush and razor sharp wit. No wonder the self-confessed reclusive artist was described as “the country’s sharpest cartoonist and political satirist” by TIME magazine! I continued my on and off romance with this art form while serving in the Indian Navy for over three decades, drawing cartoons for many military journals and magazines along the long voyage. The voyage ended with my retirement but not the enthusiasm of the cartoonist in me. So, I decided to devote more time and energy to this childhood passion. And it was at this point that the world around us changed dramatically! The year 2020 dawned upon us as inconspicuously as the Corona virus, the SARS2 COVID-19, which infiltrated human population rapidly, impacting human life like nothing witnessed in over a century in modern history. What followed was much suffering, anxiety and pain triggered by health concerns, social issues and financial constraints. Lockdown, Curfews, Social Distancing, Sanitisation, Work From Home and many such terms became the new buzzwords and an intrinsic part of our daily lives. While on the one hand there have rising emotions such as fear, anxiety and apprehensions, on the other hand people have found themselves indulging in activities like household chores, work from home, family activities, exploring new hobbies and interests - mostly by default than design - in a kind of a positive side effect. That was the genesis of this collection of cartoons on day-to-day issues that have kept us preoccupied during our battle against the pandemic. The idea has been to maintain positivity and be able to see the funny side of an otherwise grim situation while not allowing our concerns, anxieties, fears etc to build up inside us by Unlocking It…. with a smile! Saleem M Anwer 3 Meet the Artist Commodore Saleem M Anwer is a retired Indian Navy officer with over three decades of distinguished military service. Having held many important assignments and awarded the prestigious Vishisht Seva Medal by the President of India, he opted for premature retirement in 2017. He is currently pursuing a career in civil aviation and is a Boeing 737 Captain with a private airline. Deeply passionate about cartooning since childhood, he has been indulging in it for many years. Having previously contributed to many military journals and magazines, his cartoons now appear regularly on various social media platforms and some regional newspapers. This is his first compilation of cartoons in a book form. Find him at @Anwertoons on 4 # Table of contents 7 Ÿ Positive 8 Ÿ Lau ki Affair 9 Ÿ Argue 10 Ÿ Wedding Contract 11 Ÿ Jingle Bells 12 Ÿ Aliens 13 Ÿ Netflix 14 Ÿ On my Plate 15 Ÿ Thief Economy 16 Ÿ Bank 17 Ÿ Visibility 18 Ÿ Quality Time 19 Ÿ Thief WFH 20 Ÿ Liberty 21 Ÿ Museum 22 Ÿ Wine Shops 23 Ÿ Flying Broom 24 Ÿ Pressing Engagement 5 Ÿ Familiar Mask 25 Ÿ Pollution 26 Ÿ Economic Package 27 Ÿ Aviation Bailout 28 Ÿ Flights Resume 29 Ÿ Bai Laws 30 Ÿ Golf 31 Ÿ Unlocked 32 Ÿ Bar Code 33 Ÿ Floor Manager 34 Ÿ Internally Sanitised 35 Ÿ Speeches 36 Ÿ Hollywood 37 Ÿ Covid Jingle 38 Ÿ Expert Opinion 39 Ÿ Life Cycle 40 Ÿ GYM 41 Ÿ UPPER CLASS 42 Ÿ POST COVID LOOK 43 Ÿ WEDDING INVITE 44 Ÿ Teacher’s day 45 6 It all started with positivity at a stage when the extent and impact of COVID-19 was not fully understood by most people. However, it was not long before the term “POSITIVE” acquired a NEGATIVE connotation… 7 As the Lockdown commenced, the initial excitement and exuberance waned after a few days. The daily menu became the first casualty. 82 Dealing with an unprecedented amount of time together, interpersonal issues between family members were the next to surface during the Lockdown period. 9 When it became apparent that the Lockdown was likely to be a prolonged one, some were even tempted to appeal against the “unfairness” of it all at the Highest level... 10 Health authorities the world over rallied and toiled valiantly to battle the COVID-19 threat, even if it meant getting in tune with ‘basic doubts’ …. 11 It was not too long before the paranoia triggered by the threat of the virus spread far and wide across the globe. Perhaps even beyond…. 12 With the lockdown getting extended and most getting a chance to indulge in leisure activities as never before, not everyone was complaining… 13 Offices soon unleashed a ‘devilish ploy’ called Work From Home to circumvent the lockdown dilemma… while the new charter of shared household chores remained ‘on the plate’ unabated. For some, their cup - or plate - of sorrow overflowed…. 14 With authorities stringently imposing restrictions on movement of people, the economy suffered and financial losses became rampant…. for almost all segments. 15 The new “Normal” required everyone to wear masks, everywhere… including at places where the sight of a masked man would previously have caused some nervousness. 16 Hair-cutting salons remained closed over a prolonged period posing another new challenge… and some “hair-raising” experiences. 17 One thing is quite certain - All those complaining about the fast-paced modern life not affording them enough time with their families got their wish… and more. 18 Of course, given the circumstances, businesses of every “shade” had to innovate! 19 The prolonged lockdown inevitably resulted in a longing for “freedom” at some point… 20 With no domestic help available, dealing daily with brooms, mops and scrubbers became the “ground reality”, particularly for menfolk who were introduced to a new charter of duties during this battle. 21 At some stage, the authorities decided to pay heed to the plead of tipplers. Wine shops were opened. Predictably, there was a mad rush with people crowding the wine shops, and despite the efforts of the authorities, all caution flew with the brew… 22 Like other industries, Aviation too came to a grinding halt. Airline crew confined to their homes had extremely limited options of following their passion… 23 Given the new-found abilities and charter of the “men in action”, the situation could also be termed as ‘Return of Ironman’ 24 The new “Normal” also included new forms of social identity… 25 A welcome side effect was the general improvement in pollution levels with the the main catalyst of pollution - the humans - out of the equation for a substantial period! 26 When the Government announced a whopping Rs 20 Lakh Crore package, it came as a big surprise to most. Perhaps a shock to the weak-hearted… 27 A floundering Aviation industry, badly hit by the pandemic fallout, was less than impressed by the meagre assistance provided by the Government as a bailout package. With the exception of one private airline, riding pretty on its cash reserves. 28 Finally, when the flights resumed after nearly two and a half months and only on domestic sectors, there were bound to be some cobwebs to be dusted... 29 In a move that brought about widespread and palpable relief to all, permission was granted to residents of societies to employ domestic help - with certain restrictions, naturally. This led to framing of a new set of “Bai Laws”. 30 The groaning Greens and the forlorn Fareways were not a patch on the grumpy Golfers who could barely wait for lockdown restrictions to end to be at their favourite Tee for the next round… 31 A series of lockdowns and prolonged inactivity led to another problem - Overcoming inertia. 32 The tipplers were left wondering if visiting their favourite watering hole in the COVID era would require a new set of rules or perhaps a “Bar Code”! 33 With the job market hitting a massive low, new job aspirants fervently explored innovative methods to pad up their Resumé… 34 Since Breath Analysers could no longer be used, given the risk of infection, law enforcers had quite a challenge rounding up “spirited” drivers! 35 While the situation worsened and no concrete way ahead could be ascertained, rumblings could be heard from many sections of the society about the prolonged silence from the Government. 36 From the COVID pandemic to recession, civil unrest to threat of war, cyclones to earthquakes to locust attack - Year 2020 began to pan out like an ill-conceived pot boiler… 37 Relaxation in lockdown restrictions inevitably led to rise in COVID positive cases, with people throwing caution to the winds and not observing precautions. Health and law enforcement authorities had their task cut out… 38 The country had multiple demons from COVID to Recession to Indo-China standoff to fight concurrently. No wonder then that the phase saw mushrooming of all-in-one “Experts” on various electronic and social media platforms! 39 Periodic and steady rise in petrol and diesel prices further fuelled the concerns of the man on the street... 40 When the gyms and spas were finally allowed to be opened after nearly four months of restriction, the health conscious rushed to make up for lost time. For some, it appears, it did not \"work out\" too well... 41 From spiking health concerns to crumbling fortunes, COVID-19 has hit almost all strata of society... 42 With several celebrities falling under the spell of the dreaded virus, it was not very surprising that hospitals became the new \"hotspots\" for the star-struck media. 43 The yardstick and measure of success also seem to be undergoing a change during these challenging times... 44 In the final analysis, it would not be far-fetched to call Corona a “good teacher” – it has taught us the value of many things we had taken for granted, and imparted many important life lessons. All within the span of a few months! 45