Humanitys comfort or discomfort,punctured with a pen is what a cartoon is all about. And Shyamaprasad Dey,despite his humble upbringing,knows that well.
On a cloudy summer day,the cartoonist took this correspondent on a tour of his neighbourhood,a downbeat stretch from Tollygunge to Jadavpur that has served as a setting in some of his works. He pointed out the place near the Tollygunge Metro station from where he does his daily business.
Dey is a newspaper vendor by profession. Cartoon is his passion. He learnt the art on his own,without any formal training. It came to him naturally,when he was just seven-eight years old. He is 42 now and can give shape to his ideas in just two-three minutes,under the nom de plume Dhopeswar Maharaj.
Politicians can breath easy,for Dey doesnt like the subject at all. He likes cricket and Sourav Ganguly,and has tried to capture the Prince of Kolkata in different moods. I hope one day I would be able to meet him (Ganguly) and present him with the collection, Dey says.
For a newspaper vendor its always difficult to make ends meet. I am fortunate that my wife and two children dont complain. They share my struggle and inspire me to continue with my passion. My father died early. I never got support from my family and friends when I was young. But now,although I am earning very little,I am a happy man.
Dey has faced many hardships. But poverty didnt make him mordant. He also doesnt consider himself downtrodden. I dont have a fixed income. Nor do I have a fixed clientele. Onlookers and passersby are basically my customers. Also,those who buy newspapers from me sometimes take interest. My average income is Rs 50 per day. On a good day it goes up to Rs 150. I live in a joint family with my mother and brother. Sometimes survival becomes a crisis. But I have managed to retain my smile, says Dey.
He is a man of principle who believes that loan oft loses both itself and friend. People have told me to take loans and start doing my work in a big way. But I will never do that. I am satisfied with what I am doing. I never thought of myself as a museum artist,who is doing work for the wall.
Usually cartoons that are a bit surly catch attention. But this tall,well-built and soft-spoken man is always affable and kindly in his work.
I would rather take that as a compliment. I dont think you have to hurt anyone to make a statement.