Written by Dr. Ajanta Sen
• Mickey Patel Work:
Mickey was born in Karachi in the early-forties' turbulent years and whichever way one looks at it, these were turbulent times for our country, turbulent for the continent (Europe), turbulent worldwide. Mickey's youth advanced through another kind of turbulence -- the radicalism of the sixties. What settled down eventually is reflected in his prolific and essentially eclectic body of work - notably his series on the 'Sarod player'; his 'Gandhis' articulated within cinematic frames in reverence to the hugely compressed and frozen concept of time that cartooning is apt to embrace, the kind of time-frame that in Mickey's words could make "cinematic time blush in embarrassment"; his cartoons ranging from the "disinfected medical symbol for sex"' to the faceless Annual General Meeting, to "the advisor on economic and political affairs imported from the affluent West" (a la the 'all-knowing' experts on our countries' conditions who are sent in by the Brettonwoods' institutions and such, and who perpetuate their "mutilated myth and perception" of the Third World); his statement on 'the beautiful people',to his own muscled version of the Miss and Mr. Universe. His book-cover designs and illustrations for books for children; or for writers as varied as Sigrun Srivastava representing fiction-writing, to books covering non-fiction writing such as those published by the National Book Trust (NBT). Especially a book like the 'Economics for the Laymen' which carries his work and which aptly reiterates the fact that regardless of the subject Mickey handled, his quirks added on to each of his illustrations.
• Mickey' achievements by contemporary interpretations:
Without meaning to rationalise on why Mickey today appears to a section of the media (including the print and advertising ) as a man who 'didn't quite make it', one would like to interject with the thought that perhaps Mickey was too sorely aware of the frailties of the here and the now to wish to 'make it' at its expense. Living, as he did, in a world caught up in a web of its own inhibitions, its guilts and its "falling-downs" and its "falling ups," that the conveyance of this harsh reality through his work laced with a Jules Pfieffer brand of black humour never always carried a comfortable sense of reminder for the establishment that constituted part of the readership. Or perhaps Mickey was not quite prepared for what he had only just begun to witness, i.e., the blurring of the communications, cultural and economic boundaries, the absence of which had earlier had the effect of enclosing the real market for our products. In practical terms it meant that the fact of this fusion was only now beginning to unleash more takers for 'our' stuff across these boundaries than ever before. That, the media now represented more and more avenues in varied forms and proportions, the upliftment of the artist's works than could have been envisioned in all the previous twenty years of our publishing put together, and a sad coincidence to occur with Mickey's own prime years of output behind him. In sheer objective terms, Mickey had operated in a field stymied by a lack of adequate outlets, that today seems to be exploding with potentials. Until twenty years ago we had had no electronic media, until ten years ago these had remained fairly regulated, and today, we are suddenly breaking into the market place - with the opening up of the skies and the media from abroad arguably keen to find a toehold in India. With Mickey no more, whether he would have commanded the sellers' or the buyers' market can only be a matter of conjecture , but by most reckoning, Mickey would have survived in spite of the adversities of his health and the weight of the prevailing opinions about his iconoclasm. In any case, a man who had had the temerity to wish to survive in spite of his cartoons making "digs at Doon School heirs" bang in the mid-eighties at the height of a Doon School brigade forming the political establishment and headed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi - himself a Doon School graduate - couldn't have been making much of a living for himself. Obviously, for him these were precisely the times when satire served as the artist's corrective for society that was "straying away from a rational course", and he lived by it with full conviction. Mickey's achievements by contemporary interpretive yardsticks can in no way diminish his efforts at attempting to use cartooning as "a legitimate dialect of its parent language" viz., the drawing. And, therefore, the very criticism against Mickey that he had spread himself thin through his use of parallel modes of expression outside of cartooning (viz., through drawing, painting, etching, illustration) could itself be turned around to accord to his work a certain degree of legitimacy and credibility, which in its turn, derived from his ability to grasp the broader as well as the immediate nuances of communications that are so intrinsic to the very spirit of the representational arts. Mickey may also be credited for upholding the view that humour was not THE "inevitable ingredient" for cartooning----a notion that had been widely and quite erroneously presumed and which had begun to border on the myth of the essential cartoon. The important thing for Mickey in stead was to be able to attempt "a visual allegory" that employed "familiar images to reinforce and heighten their meaning".