If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Quaint portraits of an enchanting city

I would say Paul Fernandes is to Bangalore what Desmond Doig is to Calcutta and Mario Miranda to Bombay. Like them, Paul too has drawn intimate pictures of the city he loves. And he's drawn them with some brio. Bangalore is fortunate to have someone like him to record its moods for posterity. Stylistically, Paul is closer to Mario than to Doig and although he hardly enjoys their kind of fame, he too has an artist's insight and a superb grip on his pen.

I heard Fernandes’s name and saw his cartoons only a few days ago, thanks to Yahoo.com.  It was love at first sight for me. Paul has captured the languid spirit of what used to be Bangalore in the 1960s and 70s. His cartoons remind me of a time when I was in college and used to visit Bangalore to spend time with my dad who lived there alone. 

This Coffee House was a favourite joint for my old man. Many a time we had coffee, toast, and an omelette at this place. The present Coffee House in a narrow street parallel to MG Road is an apology of its past. And I am sure there you won’t find a waiter carrying a huge dosa, two chutney bowls, and a pyramid of coffee cups for an off-site customer.

Here is another lovely cartoon by Paul Fernandes.

I think this picture vividly captures Bangalore streets forty or fifty years ago. A snoring potbellied cinema watchman against the backdrop of Clark Gable kissing Vivian Leigh, and a thief rolling tyres with the careless abandon of a frolicking child, with no one around to witness this bizarre crime actually bring alive the loneliness of Bangalore streets of the time. I remember, many a late evening when I walked from Cubbon Park to Shampanghi Tank Road, where dad had his digs, through a steady drizzle – it it used to drizzle all the time – not a soul would be on the road some days. A few cars would occasionally whoosh past only to accentuate the sparseness of the scene. 

To bring out that loneliness through the antics of a comical watchman and an adorable outlaw requires the sensitivity and imagination of a top artist.

The South of India is essentially a conservative place. Those days, it was much more hidebound and so was Bangalore. One would rarely come across women in anything other than the traditional sari. Premarital – no I am not talking about sex – relationships were possibly less common than extra-marital liaisons. Heterosexual interactions were restricted to cousins within families. I guess there was a lot of suppressed libido underneath the genteel veneer of the city. No wonder that Tokyo by Night would run to full houses for three weeks or more in Bangalore, despite the smallish town having as many as seventy movie theatres. I wonder if this carefully-hidden-but-known-to-everyone fact could be expressed more brilliantly than what Paul has done in the cartoon below! And if you click on the picture to get a better view, you won’t miss the disgust writ large on the face of the only lady in the picture. Her husband  who is equally aghast – is holding her head to make sure she doesn't get a glimpse of what happens in Tokyo by night! 

The police constable in bell-bottom half pants with a protruding paunch was a cartoonist’s delight since the beginning of history. Sad was the day when he started wearing trousers. Paul too takes a keen interest in him. In the picture below, the caption reads: Potential guest at Cubbon Park Police Station. I can’t remember if I saw the police station, although I used to walk or jog in the Park almost every day during my short stays there. Looking back, Bangalore in general and Cubbon Park in particular was such a peaceful and tranquil place those days! It does seem the policemen posted there had no more serious business than dealing with delinquent kids. This picture indeed says a lot about the peace and quiet of the city of yore.

It used to rain throughout the year in Bangalore and it was a place where I felt sleepy all the time. The people were exceedingly gentlemanly and rather laid back. Through Paul’s paintings, the quaint past of the city seems to be winking at its feverish present.

Kolkata, Thursday, 31 May 2012

If you are from Bangalore, you can see the pictures at aPaulogy, which is open from 11 am to 7.30 pm on weekdays and Saturdays. The address is: 15 Clarke Road (Opp. Au Bon Pain), Richards Park Entrance, Richards Town, Bangalore - 560 005.

The pictures are courtesy yahoo.com. To see more of Paul Fernandes's pictures on line, please copy-paste this URL: http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com/photos/apaulogy-where-art-meets-cartoon-slideshow/


  1. That was a beautiful piece. I had not heard of Paul Fernandes. Thank you for introducing him to me. His pictures are more eloquent than the old photographs that I have seen: the latter was 'antiseptic' if you get that I mean while the drawings are the 'nothing-to-hide' variety. Thank you for the treat.

  2. Wow! Paul Fernandes' illustrations are indeed incredible! Reminds me of Mario's perspective of Bombay and Goa.

  3. Wonder how I have never heard of this "Chuppa Rustom" Paul Fernandes. He does deserve as much fame as Mario. The moods that he has captured of the city are beyond words - which is perhaps why he decided to do pictures rather than words - "a picture is worth ...." In the first picture of MG Road (it was called South Parade, then), I was keenly looking out for the "Three Aces" --- Any reader willing to admit having sneaked in there some time?!!!

    Thanks to Paul Fernandes for bringing out the hidden spirit of Bangalore, and thanks to you Santanu, for bringing out the hidden genius of Paul.

    Enjoy Maadi !

  4. Thanks Everyone. Just imagine, Damu, if the Internet were not there, you and I would possibly never come to know this hidden genius.


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