Today I’m finishing up my two week long, US State Department, speaking tour adventure in India. I just spent three days in beautiful Kerala, India’s tropical Southwest region which is known for its cartoonists. The cartoonists professional association here is the Kerala Cartoon Academy where I have a bunch of new, cartoonist friends. They are still adding to a collection of photos and newspaper articles from my visit.
Kerala is wet, steamy, tropical and charming, with an extensive network of estuaries called the “backwaters.” While I was here there was a big trade show going on, which brought India’s Prime Minister to town and was an excuse for me to do some cartooning speaking engagements. I had a lovely exhibition of my work here and I spent a sightseeing day with my new, Indian cartoonist buddies.
One highlight was meeting legendary Indian cartoonist “Toms,” who draws what I think Americans would describe as an Indian Dennis the Menace cartoon called Unnikkattan. Toms is the elder statesman of the cartoonists here, and we celebrated the 25th anniversary of “Unni.”
Special thanks to my new friend, Sudheer Nath, the cartoonist for the Thejas newspapers, in Kerala’s Malayalam language; also Prasannan Anikkad, the freelance cartoonist chairman of the Kerala Art Academy and Unnikrishnan, the cartoonist for the Mathnubhumi newspaper – they all showed me a great time touring Kerala’s historic sights, and introducing me to the fascinating food here, which is served on big banana leaves, eaten with much drama with gooey fingers mushing things all about.
Kerala has an outsized cartooning tradition, and the Kerala Cartoon Academy (KCA) is at its heart. The KCA doesn’t exist as a school, rather it is a cartoonist professional organization that organizes events, like my visit here and the tribute to Mr. Toms. They do “cartoon camps” for kids and publish books and magazines; I was very impressed with them.
I’m so rushed I haven’t had a chance to write about my visit to Hyderabad – that will come next.
Near the end of my visit we got the sad news of the murder of J. Christopher Stevens, the US Ambassador to Libya, who was a career foreign service officer, and a friend and colleague of the State Department people who were hosting me here. It was a grim reminder that the world outside of Kerala can be an ugly place, putting things into some perspective. I’m impressed with the dedication of the State Department people I’ve met on my travels and I appreciate their service.