By: Laxmi Murthy
Attupurathu Mathew Abraham (‘Abu’) was born in Tiruvalla, Kerala, on 11 June 1924. He began his career as a reporter at the Bombay Chronicle and the Bombay Sentinel, and later in Delhi worked as a staff cartoonist and caricaturist at the satirical English-language journal Shankar’s Weekly. In 1953, he moved to London, to receive immediate acclaim from widely respected publications in the UK such as The Observer and The Guardian. Abu Abraham returned to India in 1969 to work in Delhi as a political cartoonist at the Indian Express (1969-81), where he earned a reputation as one of the most hard-hitting cartoonists anywhere in the modern era. In Abu’s own words, he was out there “bursting bloated bladders of lies and pomposity, cutting people down to size; these are the purposes of satire.”
Abu devoted the last three decades of his life to keeping politicians on their toes, offering up at least one cartoon per day. His unique minimalist style, coupled with acerbic wit and astute political analysis, make him as relevant today as during the decades in which he lived and worked. Abu died on 1 December 2002, thus putting to rest “the conscience of the left and the pea under the princess’s mattress” as The Guardian once described him.
The precious original works of this prolific cartoonist are held by his daughter Ayisha Abraham in Bangalore. The humungous task of cataloguing and digitizing the cartoons and illustrations has begun.
For more samples and a piece on Abu Abraham’s work, do read “The Pea Under the Matress” (Himal, December 2008)