He identifies so much with his pen name that he says he doesn’t remember his real name anymore! Besides, his choice of pen name itself is intriguing: he calls himself Kaak — which literally means ‘crow’, perhaps the lowliest in the pecking order among birds. But let’s remember that this humble scavenger has also been scientifically proven to be among the smartest in the feathered fraternity.
So, Kaak’s choice of name is apt, after all. He is not pretentious. Neither are his characters. And this explains their immense popularity among the masses. They may sometimes be loud, dramatic and raucous — much like the crow. But they strike an instant chord in both the rural and urban masses.
Eminent journalist Vivek Shukla calls Kaak “the R.K.Laxman and Sudhir Dar of the Hindi cartoon world”, adding that his greatness lies in his brilliant understanding of the problems of the people at the grassroots level. Yet, unlike Laxman’s Common Man, Kaak’s Everyman is not a silent spectator to the goings-on. He is a vocal commentator. Kaak’s female characters too are strong characters __ a rarity in the Indian cartoon scene generally.
The son of a freedom fighter, and a mechanical engineer by training, Kaak’s first cartoon to be published saw the light of day in Dainik Jagran, Kanpur, on July 6, 1967. Soon, he gave up a secure government job to pursue cartooning as a full-time vocation.
A list of publications in which his cartoons appeared would perhaps read like a comprehensive line-up of names in the print media! Periodicals like Dinman, Shankar's Weekly, Current, Blitz, Organizer, New Wave, Prajaniti, Pratipaksha, Aaspass, Hindi Express, Ravivar, Itwari Patrika, Dharamyug, Saptahik Hindustan, India Post and Sampadak regularly carried his toons.
Among national dailies, his cartoons were standard fare in Dainik Jagran, Aaj, Navjeevan, Dainik Tribune, Rajasthan Patrika, Amar Ujala, etc.
Kaak also worked as an editorial cartoonist with Jansatta (Indian Express group) from 1983 to 1985 and with Navbharat Times (Times of India group) from July 1985 to Jan 1999.
At present he is working for the news portal www.prabhasakshi.com and cartoon website www.kaakdrishti.com, besides contributing weekly cartoons to the national Hindi daily Rashtriya Sahara.
Incidentally, Kaak has been publishing a cartoon-oriented fortnightly tabloid Kaaktoons since 2004.
Writes eminent journalist Mrinal Pandey: “Like Charlie Brown, ultimately the appeal of Kaak's persona lies in his ability to laugh and feel ashamed at human folly.” She adds: “Literally, the word 'KAAK' means a crow; the lowliest (and perhaps the ugliest) among the birds; invited only to death feasts. And yet the crow it is, who is feared and respected for its immense powers perseverance; its uncanny ability to smell and expose rot with its raucous voice, whenever he spots it… It is rarely that a Hindi cartoonist is able to attract among his admirers, both the average reader and the cognoscenti. The preface to Kaak's collection, by Vinod Bhardwaj, an eminent Hindi poet and film-critic, is a testimony to his appeal to all sections of the Hindi-reading public.”
During a public felicitation for Kaak in 1986 in Haridwar, former Lok Sabha speaker Balram Jhakar joked: “I am Speaker of Lok Sabha with merely 500 members, while 'Kaak' is speaker of Loksabha with members in millions.”
Rupa and Co has brought out a collection of Kaak’s best cartoons, titled Nazariya.