Name of the book: Aarchi
Writer: Nituparna Rajbongshi
Publisher: Jyoti Prakashan
Price: Rs 70
Ridicule is the only weapon the English climate cannot rust,” Lord Byron had said. Nituparna Rajbongshi uses this weapon judiciously in Assam’s wet climate, sketching one scathing cartoon after the other, sparing no one but never failing to wrap each piece of biting sarcasm in unmistakable humour.
Aarchi, a collection of 200 of his carefully handpicked cartoons that have appeared in various newspapers and magazines over the years, is a collector’s item for all those who have been in love with his acerbic wit.
In Assamese, Aarchi means mirror — an apt name for a collection that reflects the cartoonist’s world as he saw it.
Cartoons, in fact, have always been a potent tool for social satire.
The spurt came particularly during World War II when the warring sides realised the power of the pictorial image to convey a powerful message both to the barely literate and to those who spoke a different language. Cartoons and caricature were hence part of a propaganda campaign.
The rise of the caption-less cartoon drawings also expanded the scope for malicious lampoonery.
The art got a new dimension in Assam with Bahi, an Assamese magazine edited by Lakshminath Bezbaruah.
In Bahi, Bezbaruah himself drew cartoons criticising the hypocrisies of his society.
The first cartoon magazine in Assam, simply called Cartoon, was published by Pulok Gogoi from Calcutta in 1967.
Compilations of published articles, poems and short stories are common in Assam but, for unknown reasons, the same had not happened with cartoons, for which a good many cartoons are lost forever.
By publishing Aarchi, Jyoti Publication, a leading publishing house of Assam, has ignited hope for other cartoonists in the state.
Rajbongshi’s collection has an interesting mix — while some reveal hypocrisies and double standards, others target specific groups like unemployed youths, housewives and any cartoonist’s favourite, the politician.
A glimpse into the development of cartoons in Assam as well as in India and the world in the book’s foreword will definitely help readers get an insight into this witty, expressive and extremely creative art form.