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Alexyz ‘and the Art of Happiness’

It’s 8:00 am on a Monday morning when I see the two cocks on Alexyz’s house.  While giving directions over the phone, ambulance he tells me “the third one’s inside.” He hangs on the other end, waiting for me to get it… and then I burst out laughing.

Yes, site that’s what Alex’s been doing over the last 25 years. Caricaturing the world around him with his sketches and making people laugh.

With his funky directions and uncanny way of seeing things, I find him without any trouble on a heavy rainy day. It’s a beautiful red structure with wonderful details. From a drain pipe that ends up as a pig’s face and a gate that forewarns one to ‘beware of god’, I can’t but wonder about the face and personality of the man behind this place.

I am greeted with a voice ‘coming’ and then a man with a full beard and only a towel thrown around him. He clearly didn’t expect me there but with a huge chuckle that is becoming him, he welcomes me. Here is a man ready for what comes his way. I am not there to interview him but only to take his photographs for a story Streets did last week on laughter yoga. In addition to being Goa’s foremost cartoonist, he’s also a proponent of using laughter to cure ills of all kinds. He throws a nondescript black and gray clothing over himself. Later he tells me while we are chatting, “I am not interested in clothes”.

I am immediately blown away with the visuals in the house. Being a photographer I can’t but feel glad walking into this place. A terrace on my left with the biggest lemon grass plant I’ve seen, a sketch of the Mapusa market, and frames on the wall revealing the breadth of his life. I quickly learn he’s been an ad-man but trying to fulfill others with empty promises in the end wasn’t his cup of tea. He gave that up for making a real difference to people by pursuing social work. And then cartoons. And then laughter.

Looking at the lines on the man’s face, I muse at the events that have etched themselves out there. Here is a man who is deceptively simple, totally modest about his achievements, only opening himself up after being enticed with smiles and friendliness. His passions have taken him to Africa and Portugal and for the sake of a photograph he stood alongside Sachin Tendulkar.

Alexyz’s sketches reveal the plight of the world, the depth of his understanding and his comments on serious issues, all covered with humor. He has after all been cartooning for the last 25 years. He tells me he likes to put down “serious” issues. When I compare him to R.K. Laxman, because Alexyz was to join the TOI group the day we met, the man doesn’t feel complimented. I immediately become aware of Alexyz’s sense of independence and I respect him for that.

He tells me that his ambition is to make the whole world laugh. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing? I am not sure whether he is asking or telling me that. But it doesn’t matter because he continues telling me that he got the school kids next to his house to laugh with him. Two hundred kids broke into riotous “laughter from the belly”, he makes sure I understand as I wander off for a second to imagine how that must have sounded. “It’s a very old concept, it’s one of the limbs of Yoga, Hasya Yoga. The wise have spoken about it from ancient times. It opens up more that 1,200 nerves in your body. It’s a great pain killer.” As I look into his large eyes, I sense the depth of his passion. The etymology of that word comes from suffering. I wonder if that is the source of the great laugh.

I rise up quickly as he gets up to demonstrate how it is done. It starts off like Pranayama (another great yogic exercise) with the hands folded in front of the chest (like the namaste) and then a deep inhalation, a raising of the arms and bending down forwards and downwards to the ground. Then one stands up tall in one sweeping movement with the arms thrown high up towards the sky, head thrown back and “laughing from the belly”. Alexyz says once more, and with every repetition of this ridiculous exercise I begin feeling lighter! By now I am laughing hard and smiling wider in between the sets. Alexyz’s smiling at me because he knows it’s working. Yes, this is a man with one healthy ambition.

As he comes to see me off, I am feeling lighter, younger and more energetic. I couldn’t have begun a Monday morning better; actually yes I could, by taking a nice photograph. I manage to do precisely that because he also happens to be photogenic. It’s a big thing to be feeling so damn good with yourself after you’ve driven more than a 100 kms on crazy Goan roads, weathered the heavy rains and kept pace with a sleepless working schedule. As the famous Raj Kapoor song goes “kisi ki muskorahato pe ho nisar, kisi ka dard mil sake tho le udhar…..jeena hi isika nam hai.” (To offer yourself to someone for smiles, To share someone’s grief… To have love in your heart for someone, This is what life is all about.) Thank you, Alexyz!

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