For past 46 years Bashir Ahmad Bashir has maintained the continuity and rhythm in his work, not hesitating to call spade a spade and at the same time giving his readers a reason to smile

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|| S.TARIQ (ANANTNAG)

           While journalism has evolved to the next level in Kashmir one personality who stands tall for his wonderful art work is the cartoonist, Bashir Ahmad Bashir. Whenever there is a talk about the  daily cartoon in newspapers the name that instantly strikes the mind is Bashir, better known as BAB. His unparalleled work in the field of journalism for past so many decades has made him an ideal artist. Bashir, who had initially aimed to be engineering, landed into the profession because of his elder brother Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, a veteran journalist and founder of the Daily Srinagar Times. Bashir started his career in 1970. Since then every morning every individual, from a politician to a bureaucrat or a layman won’t have his tea till he/she have the glimpse of the BAB’s cartoon in daily Srinagar Times.

          Bashir has never hesitated to call a spade a spade and for this unflinching quality he has often faced difficulties in his profession career as well personal life. The only thing that Bashir knows to do well is to truthfully depict the situation in Kashmir through his cartoons. During chief minister GM Sadiq’s regime, BAB and editor of Srinagar Tmes GM Sofi were dragged to court and the newspaper was banned for two months. Recalling the time when he and Sofi would receive threatening calls, BANB said they decided to stand like a “strong rock” and face the storms like a man. Bashir was nominated twice for Padamshree Award, once during Sheikh Abdulla’s regime and once during Farooq Abdulla’s regime. Despite of receiving many positive communications from the Centre government, Padamshree was never given to him. Although BAB has received a number of state level awards, still he never remained fond of these awards. He says that his real award is the appreciation he receives from the readers and the satisfaction he feels while depicting the truth in his cartoons.

Better known as BAB, his unparalleled work in the field of journalism for past so many decades has made him an ideal artist.

          A very big fan of one of the famous cartoonist of India, late RK Laxman, BAB is of the thought that Laxman was confined to a small box by the newspaper for which he used to make cartoons and his place was much higher than we know him. BAB’s work, he says, has been much inspired by Laxman and he calls him as his first and last inspiration in cartoon journalism. While answering a question regarding the modern age cartoonists, BAB said,” I am very happy with the work of today’s cartoonists who draw the cartoons for various state based newspapers and I always appreciate their efforts in the field”. “The beauty about BAB’s cartoons is that with a few strokes of his pencil, he can brew a political storm in Jammu and Kashmir,” said a senior journalist who wished not to be named. “And that is why for the past over four decades BAB’s cartoons have earned him many enemies and thousands of admirers and his highly popular cartoons have landed him in trouble with politicians and rulers.” Very informal with his attire BAB has a very pleasant and easy-go attitude. His cartoons convey the pulse of the latest news perfectly and highlight the situation of the day, often brining to fore the loopholes of the government in its functioning.

Very informal with his attire BAB has a very pleasant and easy-go attitude. His cartoons convey the pulse of the latest news perfectly and highlight the situation of the day

         For BAB drawing a cartoon is an honest effort in depicting truth without any intention of bringing disrepute to a person or an institution. According to him the cartoon must have a tinge of sarcasm and humor blended into it so that the message is felt strongly with a smile. “My intention while creating a cartoon is that the message must get conveyed very easily and strongly,” said BAB. Sometimes it would take him an entire day to come up with the subject for his cartoon and many times the subject he has in his mind for the whole day would be obsolete in the evening. Many people still recall his cartoon that was a big hit in his Srinagar Times in 1974. The cartoon was about a high-profile Urdu Mushaira arranged at Srinagar’s Exhibition Grounds, months before Sheikh Abdullah’s return to the mainstream. BAB’s cartoon—captioned ‘ek shair mulahiza ho’, showing then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi presenting a lion to the Kashmiris. (Sheikh Abdullah was famous for his sobriquet of Sher-e-Kashmir meaning the lion of Kashmir.) With Abdullah as chief minister of state in 1981, BAB again created a storm of sorts. During one occasion then, Jammu and Kashmir Assembly members got involved into verbal duel “where members spoke rude language and torn each other’s clothes”.

For BAB drawing a cartoon is an honest effort in depicting truth without any intention of bringing disrepute to a person or an institution. According to him the cartoon must have a tinge of sarcasm and humor blended into it so that the message is felt strongly with a smile.

         The next day, BAB’s car toon described MLAs, as—Monkeys, Lambs and Asses, involved in fight inside the legislature. The most interesting part of the cartoons made by BAB is that he has maintained the rhythm and continuity in his work for last 46 years and the talent of using simple line strokes to make a cartoon understandable for even an illiterate person. Another appreciable thing in the BAB’s art work is that one can never hold his smile once seeing his cartoon. His cartoons are amazingly humorous although BAB is a serious, simple, down to earth person in his real life. After the death of his elder brother and editor of Srinagar times, Bashir Ahmad Bashir is performing brilliantly all the duties of at the newspaper besides keeping alive the real soul of his cartoons. At present he is thinking to compile his art work and caricatures in the form of a book in near future.

BAB’s work, he says, has been much inspired by Laxman and he calls him as his first and last inspiration in cartoon journalism.

         As per BAB the book shall be a gift for those fans who are tirelessly demanding for it. “Today, with digital technology, cartoon making is a lot easier. You can freeze any picture on the computer for observation. However, this hasn’t made the knowledge, understanding and experience for creating an idea indispensable. Mirza Galib must have learnt Urdu language but nobody could teach him poetry. I am a pencil and paper artist. I always carry my box with pencil, sharpener and eraser and a few papers along with me. This helps me work whenever I feel lik,” said Bashir. Of his two sons, Seemaab and Shaadab, one is already showing interest in cartoons. “May be, he would carry on my legacy,” said bashir with a smiling face.