Last year, some time after his death on December 11, Mario Miranda’s diary of 1951, in which he graphically recorded the events of nearly every day of his life that year, came into the market. It was a visual treat, offering a glimpse into the early years of one of India’s most endearing cartoonists. Now comes another — The Life of Mario Miranda 1950, the second of a four-book series.
Miranda in this book is nearly 24 years old and is back in his village Loutolim in south Goa. His family, which includes dogs, cats and a donkey named Zuzarte Filipe Tadeu de Amadeu Prazeres, is growing. And though he prefers stag parties with his friends — Bandu (the speechmaker and aspiring dancer), Bordalo (the one with the great swagger) and Nelson (the bard) — he is also beginning to closely observe women and their characteristics. In the August 31 diary entry, the silent observer lists “the chemistry of a woman”. The illustrated description is detailed. “Symbol: Wo.; accepted atomic weight: 120 lbs... Uses: is probably the most effective income-reducing agent known”, and so on.
If in his diary of 1951 we saw a film-obsessed Miranda who wouldn’t miss a dance or a movie, no matter what language it was in, here we get to know more about his family and his army of cooks and bearers. His favourite is Gabru, the head cook, who would sometimes travel with Miranda to his many properties and prepares the most delicious dishes for him. One particular incident, early on in the diary, tells us the lengths to which the young Miranda could go to punish a thief who had dared to steal Rs 17 from his drawer. Not only does Miranda sit through the cross-examination of the thief at the police station in Margao, he also sees the trial through. It ends with the thieving new servant being given a month’s imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 per day for 30 days.
Compared to his diary of 1951, which was almost entirely in colour, here we find Miranda experimenting extensively in ink. But he’s also beginning to use colour with greater ease. The diary contains some remarkable watercolours and portraits that demonstrate Miranda’s increasing understanding of the human anatomy.
This is a time when Goa is still a Portuguese colony adjoining an independent India. A movement is on “to declare Goa Portuguese forever”. We get a glimpse into how this movement came within touching distance of Miranda and his pals but missed them by a whisker. The boys are determined to cheer for Portugal at a massive rally at
Panjim, but the mayor fails them. So, instead of rallying for Portugal, the evening finds the infuriated group sitting at its favourite tea house, called “Datta”, and shouting, “Death to the Mayor” and “Throw the Mayor out!” Miranda records this episode of March 9 as “The massive rally and the reason why Loutulim was not represented.”
Besides black and white pictures of a young Miranda with his gang of friends, the diary takes us through his thoughts and interests — badminton being the biggest obsession of the year. Besides these are the usual suspects like “characters of the village” and the even more delightful “acrobats of the village” — “the washerwoman” balancing a bundle of clothes three times her size on her head, “the baker” on a cycle with a cigarette in his mouth, a smile on his face, an oversized basket on his head and a crow perched atop or “the drunkard (after several shots)”.
Next in line is the diary of 1947, a critical year for India, that found the budding cartoonist in Bombay in the throes of the freedom struggle.
Miranda is gone but there’s clearly much more of him coming.
THE LIFE OF MARIO 1950
Editor: Gerard da Cunha
Publisher: Architecture Autonomous
Price: Rs 395