NEW DELHI, JULY 13: The black felt pen drew deft strokes on the coarse white surface of the sketch pad. Within seconds emerged an image -- the face of a jawan of the Grenadiers regiment. This was no ordinary cartooning session. The venue was the New Delhi Railway Station and the regiment on board the Shalimar Express headed for Jammu Tawi from where begins their journey to the battlefront.
It was a gesture by the cartoonists who gathered at platform number 9 to express their solidarity with the jawans and wish them luck.
The modest soldiers zealously posed for EP Unny of the The Indian Express and Govind Dixit of Rashtriya Sahara at one end and for Rohnit Singh Phore of Navbharat Times and Shekhar Gurera of The Pioneer. Some excitedly peeped over the shoulders of the cartoonists to see how the caricature was turning out.
``Our endeavour is to bring smiles on the face of readers each day through our cartoons. Forming a part of the job are sketches of politicians which have tobe submitted irrespective of whether one enjoys sketching them or not. But today I have a feeling of great satisfaction -- a sense of purpose,'' said Phore, who busied himself in a compartment with the Assam regiment.
Gurera too promptly captured the faces of the soldiers and got all of them to sign for him on a huge poster. ``This is to be exhibited later,'' he said. The team is planning to host an exhibition of the cartoons that have found space in the various newspapers in the past one month.
At the other end, Unny captured the moods -- the expressions intact, some with smiling faces, others caught unawares in deep contemplation. The results were fascinating. ``Oh, it does look like me!'' said Pawan Kumar Jakhar, a Grenadier to a colleague, but not before he turned to Unny to ask, ``Do I get to keep it as well?'' As Unny tore the sheet and handed it over to him, Jakhar said, ``Oh, thank you! You can keep it for your reference. I carry my face with me everyday''.
Dixit, on his part, distributed hiscartoons on Kargil.
While there were some soldiers who appreciated the efforts of the cartoonists, there were others who found the whole situation very ironical. Said another jawan from the regiment: ``Under normal circumstances, not a single person is bothered about how we travel -- neither the government nor any other authority. Many times we have had to stand and travel for the entire distance spanning over days and today when we are headed for the battlefront, people are going out of their way to offer us seats and make us comfortable. It's a funny feeling.''
As the train started moving, the soldiers were seen comparing their caricatures and sharing a laugh.
Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.