My fascination with Mario de Miranda’s caricatures began when I was about 6 years old. I still fondly (and vividly!) remember the adventures of Nitin, Hassan and Leena, the colourful characters Mario brought to life in my Grade 1 English textbook. Those cheery illustrations made learning so much fun!
In the years that followed, I savoured his witty cartoons in newspapers and magazines. His inimitable black ink sketches with buxom women and potbellied men, would make me chuckle every single time.
Mario was (and in my opinion, still is) one of India’s most loved cartoonists. Self-taught, insanely detail-oriented and delightfully cheeky, his cartoons regaled the country for decades. His larger-than-life wall art at Café Mondegar in Bombay (now Mumbai), still stares down on visitors to this day.
His art imitated his life. Goa was his muse. He was born there, grew up in his ancestral home in Loutolim (South Goa) and spent a majority of his retired life there. His cartoons showcased the idyllic Goan life to the rest of India and the world. Today, they are a nostalgic reminder of a Goan lifestyle that has either disappeared or is fast disappearing.
Mario’s passing in 2011 left me wanting to find out more about Mario, the person. Our recent trip to Goa was to pay tribute to this iconic artist.
The drive from Panjim to Loutolim, Mario’s hometown, was picturesque – paddy fields and coconut groves till as afar as the eye can see.
When we reached Loutolim, we drove down an unpaved road to reach the 400-year old Casa de Miranda – a stunning mansion constructed in the Indo-Portuguese style. We were happy to admire it from a distance.
Would we have knocked on the door had he still been alive? I’m not sure. Mario would have been 89 years old.
We left wondering what his life might have been in Loutolim, far away from the media spotlight and the trappings of city life.
Our next stop on this tribute journey was the Mario Gallery in Porvorim. Here, renowned architect Gerard da Cunha (with the permission of the Miranda family) has converted Mario’s work into a plethora of merchandise, thus keeping his memory alive and giving Mario fans an opportunity to own a piece of his work.
As I walked towards the entrance of the Gallery, there was an overwhelming feeling of stepping into a fairy tale. The reddish-brown, laterite bricks used in the construction of the Gallery give it a gingerbread feel, apt for Mario’s make-believe world of cartoons. Replicas of some of Mario’s creations greet visitors.
In the Gallery, t-shirts, mugs, tiles and shot glasses jostle for space alongside Mario’s originals, limited edition prints and books. We spent hours browsing.
The piece de resistance of this trip was the original artwork we were able procure from the Gallery. That was all the closure I needed.
Through his work, Mario will live on forever.
(*From the book ‘Goa with Love’ by Mario Miranda)