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Abu Abraham


Attupurathu Mathew Abraham, pen name Abu (June 11, 1924 - December 1, 2002) was an Indian cartoonist, journalist, and author. In a long career spanning 40 years, Abu Abraham lend his service to a broad spectrum of national and international newspapers including The Bombay Chronicle, Shankar's Weekly, Blitz, Tribune, The Observer (1956-66), The Guardian (1966-69), and The Indian Express.

Born in Tiruvalla,Kerala as the son of A.M. Mathew and Kantamma, Abu started drawing cartoons at the age of 3. After studying French, Mathematics, and English at University College, Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and being the tennis champion, he graduated in 1945. He moved to Bombay where he became a journalist in The Bombay Chronicle and its sister paper, The Bombay Sentinal while contributing cartoons to Blitz and Bharat. In 1951, he was invited by Shankar, one of Indias best known cartoonists at the time, to move to New Delhi to work in the Shankar's Weekly.


In 1953, he met Fred Joss of the London Star, who encouraged him to move to London.[1] At 32, Abu arrived in London in the summer of 1953 and immediately sold cartoons to Punch magazine and the Daily Sketch and started to contribute material to Everybodys' London Opinion and Eastern World using the pen name 'Abraham'. In 1956, after two cartoons were published in Tribune, he was sent a personal letter by David Astor, the editor of The Observer, the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, offering him a permanent job as its first ever political cartoonist. Astor asked Abu to change his pen name as 'Abraham' would imply a false slant on his cartoons, and so he settled on 'Abu', a schoolboy nickname of his.

Abu immersed himself in British culture and produced incisive political cartoons. He was described in The Guardian as "the conscience of the Left and the pea under the princess's mattress". He also produced reportage drawings from around the world. In 1962 in Cuba he drew Che Guevara and spent three hours in a nightclub with Fidel Castro.

In September 1966, Abu moved to The Guardian and started to contribute a weekly cartoon to Tribune. During 1968 he edited Verdicts on Vietnam, a collection of cartoons about the Vietnam war.

He returned to India in 1969. In 1972 he was elected to Rajya Sabha for 6 years. When in 1975 Indian Emergency was declared and the freedom of the press was suspended, Abu fell out of favour with Indira Gandhi. The direct result of this was the publication of the book Games of the Emergency in 1977, which contained the political articles and cartoons that he could not print during the Emergency. His final halt as a cartooning journalist was with The Indian Express till 1981.

The cartoons and articles of Abu Abraham were a regular feature of the leading newspapers and periodicals in India and abroad. Besides the Games of the Emergency he also wrote two other books Abu On Bangladesh (1972) and Arrivals and Departures (1981). He also edited the book Verdicts of Vietnam (considered to be the bible of cartoon lovers), a compilation of cartoons around the world dealing with the topic of the Vietnam War, both for and against it.

The hallmark of Abu Abraham's cartoons was their merciless attack upon the corruption in politics. As a mark of the man, his cartoons were an assortment of simple lines that stood out for their directness of expression augmented by arresting punch lines that never missed the mark.

Abu is survived by his British-born wife Psyche after his divorce from Sarojini, from Tamil Nadu. He has 2 daughters Aysha and Janaki from his first marriage.

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