The Cartoonist, the 

Conscience Keeper

Iris C F Gomes

The man engages his audience with candour and the humour that effortlessly emerges from it. Alexyz, the cartoonist and the fearless activist for any legitimate cause, will wake you up with his wit and a dash of laughter therapy should ennui impede your concentration.

The Friday Balcao, an initiative that evolved in 1999 out of the need for information and discussions related to issues in Goa,  hosted Alexyz   on the first day of the Konkan Fruit Fest 2016. He spoke on the topic ‘Goa, Today and Tomorrow’ using the description of cartoons from his latest book O to be in Goa…Today as an insightful yet playful educative tool.

Alexyz began with the monumental problem of alcoholism in Goa that shows no signs of abating. The cartoon declares that Goa is a government approved bar and restaurant. The chance for cheap liquor has tourists from other states heading in droves for Goa where the highest number of deaths are alcohol related. Goa Medical College records 300 deaths connected to alcoholism annually, with Alcoholics Anonymous increasing in its membership at the same time. ‘We have the ex-CM (Manohar Parrikar) to thank for it,’ says Alexyz.

Last year The Times of India carried a news report on the tests done by the National Institute of Oceanography which brought to public knowledge the sorry condition of Goa’s beaches. The level of faecal coliform is higher than acceptable and the waters are thus determined to be unsafe for swimming and detrimental to health. Alexyz depicts this in one of his cartoons and advises, ‘Don’t go to Calangute or Miramar for swimming. Go to some little known beach.’

Another cartoon criticises the Swacch Bharat campaign for the hypocrisy it represents. While the removal of garbage still remains an ongoing problem, Alexyz exhorts the Government to concentrate on eliminating communalism, sex tourism, illegal mining, and other pressing woes that are threatening the very existence of this state.

He directly addresses the garbage problem, the menace that is shame and a nuisance to the people of Goa. ‘Singapore has a fining system, but in Goa everything is a mess! He exclaims, ‘The Government is not ready to do anything.’

The drug scene and its dreaded ability to entrap young people was emphasised. The cartoon has a foreigner saying, ‘Our travel agent was right when he said Goa was the best place on Earth for drugs.’

The Government’s apathy towards environmental problems, such as the rising sea levels, is broached in one of Alexyz’ cartoons. It says that the Government works below ‘see’ level, therefore the utter lack of concern for the future of this planet and this state.

Musing over his career as a cartoonist who had to constantly spar with politicians and the ruling party, Alexyz jocularly says, ‘We cartoonists are always in the opposition.’ Of the many politicians he has poked fun at and derided for some idiocy or the other, he maintains that the erstwhile chief minister, Pratap Singh Rane, was a good sport when it came to being the constant butt of Alexyz’ graphic witticisms. At a function which Rane attended with architect Charles Correia, the architect was presented with a caricature of himself by Alexyz. On witnessing this gesture, Rane remarked that Correia was lucky to have a caricature made by Alexyz and that Alexyz made caricatures of Rane every other day.

Alexyz has had his share of threats from disgruntled politicians. Churchill Alemao, for obvious reasons, was one of his favourites. Though he was warned to stop ridiculing Alemao, Alexyz continued unfazed. Alexyz drew the ire of Dr Luis Proto Barbosa, during Barbosa’s time as chief minister, by portraying him clad in a bikini. Through these occupational hiccups he was supported by the former editor of Herald, Rajan Narayan. Editor and cartoonist, together, were instrumental in stoking political momentum in the cause of Goa’s statehood, Konkani becoming the official state language and so on.

The freedom of expression and front page space that was afforded to Alexyz was tremendous. He still has the gumption to prod the present Government in its sore spots. He says, ‘The present Government gives ample opportunities for cartoons with their foolish statements.’ He laments the stranglehold of industrialists and mine owners over the present day media. This is one of the reasons he has a plan to start a union for cartoonists: to encourage and protect them from political influence.

Political cartoons have long been the conscience keeper of governments, creating awareness of pressing socio-economic and political concerns among the people and will continue to do so. In his childlike enthusiasm, Alexyz offers us his help, and his cartoons to be used to make statements that will put into motion political machinery to save and empower our precious Goa.

*Cartoon courtesy of Alexyz