Hope he went with a song in his heart and a smile on his lips

It was cartoonist Toms who imbibed in Malayalis the fad to read a magazine from back to front
Features Obituary Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 15:48

We do hope cartoonist Toms passed away to the soft strains of music in his sleep.  In a coma for the past ten months, Toms must have surely left for his eternal abode on Wednesday night with a song on his lips and a smile in his heart, for that’s exactly what he gifted us Malayalis for over 50 years.

“When I’m about to die, I shall ask my children to leave me alone in a room with its doors and windows left open with Saigal’s ‘Soh jaa rajkumari’ playing in the background. Nothing is as pleasurable as dying while listening to a song,” he said tongue-in-cheek.

Generations spanning half a century stand witness to a Malayali comic culture spawned by Kerala’s very own ‘Bobanum Mollyum’ -Toms’ masterpiece which gave birth to not just two of the most loved comic caricatures, but an entire neighbourhood of the fictional Kizhukamthooku village based somewhere in central Travancore.

So we have Boban and Molly along with their nameless puppy and a host of equally cherished characters like their father –the ‘case’less advocate Pothan Vakeel and mother Marykutty, the not-so-wise panchayat president -Ittunnnan chettan, his wife –the domineering Mariamma, Appihippy – the friendly village flirt, the adorable imp Unnikuttan (Toms’ own favourite) and his friend-cum-foe Motta and Aashaan – the in-house conscience keeper of the village who keeps one and all updated of the latest socio-political happenings in contemporary society.

First published in 1962 in the Malayala Manorama weekly, ‘Bobanum Mollyum’ cartoons soon became part and parcel of a Malayali childhood…errr…that would be factually wrong, as even grown-ups too waited eagerly every week for the next edition to hit the stands just to keep abreast of the latest happenings in Kizhukamthooku village.

It was a couple of  hyperactive, witty siblings from the  neighbourhood of his ancestral home at Kuttanad in Alapuzha  -Alex and Molly- who inspired Toms to come up with his central characters Boban and Molly.

In his autobiography ‘Ente Bobanum Molliyum’, Toms has captured his evolution as an cartoonist from the age of 30 which began by issuing repeated although useless warnings to the naughty duo to refrain from jumping the fence to coming alive as the evergreen twins in his comic page appended as the last page of the Malayalam weekly.

So popular was this comic page that it even triggered an unusual fad among Mallus of reading the weekly magazine from back to front…starting with the last page.

Show us some love and support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.