A lot of my friends constantly ask me as to why do I use a caricature of myself as my profile pic on Twitter, Instagram, etc. A variety of reasons & this is due to being sentimental, to pay tribute to a friend and also to be as down to earth as possible without living my position as an editor, journalist, author too seriously! The caricature of me is with respect to my lifelong passion for two-wheels and I had asked the late great Jim Bamber to do some artistry with a comical touch to it.
Now for those who didn’t know Jim or yet that name doesn’t ring a bell let me tell you that Jim was the go to motor racing cartoonist for the famed British weekly magazine Autosport and I requested him to join me in sharing his tongue-in-cheek peek look via his weekly pin pricks at the going ons in the sport when I started Overdrive magazine. In fact I knew Jim from my Car & Bike International days as he was also a keen motorcyclist (he owned and rode a Ducati among other bikes!). Jim was also a very good graphic designer and had done great work with F1 Grand Prix teams, bike racers, various car OEMs but his heart was in motorsport with the funny bone more often than not cracking us up every week without fail!
I got Jim to contribute to C&BI and once I conceptualised and began Overdrive magazine, he came on board without a qualm. It was when I met him in or around mid-2004 that we really got to know each other, having ridden together to Silverstone and also to Beaulieu. It was then that we shared many of our passions and stories connected with that and he said that he wanted to gift me something. In those days I used to send a quantum of Indian spices to him for he had grown fond of Indian chicken tikka masala in Blighty but when I told him that it was nowhere near the real deal that he truly began to relish and understand why our Indian cuisine was so flavourful against bland Brit bangers & mash! I didn’t know what to say but he said that if I didn’t mind could he draw two cartoon caricatures of me and present those to me? He said that he understood that while I loved my job, did everything that was emotive and brought joy to enthusiasts I yet remained as carefree as anything and being a motorcyclist on top was something that struck him to be downright human! We discussed this brainchild of his and he said that he would do a light hearted bit but I impressed upon him that one of the caricatures had to be me astride an Indian motorcycle. I also told him to be as wild as he could go and wind me up in the other caricature on any make of bike he thought fit!
Thus emerged two caricatures of which the world only knows one (the second I will share later for that has a story to it as well) and this is of me on a large contemporary British single which had to be the built-in-India Royal Enfield Bullet. Even though I am not exactly a wheelie man or have ever indulged in such hair raising stunts by design or inclination (but surely out of panic I must say on occasion!), he said that you have to loosen up a bit to whistle your way in life! Well I thought I was whistling till then but I got the drift and as you can see he framed me perfectly! I being a stickler for proper safety gear he did place a helmet on my big head but said let the strap be undone (“loosen up Adil” were his very words that yet ring in my subconscious!). I said that I never had a yellow helmet in my life but here again he said don’t be such a detail freak and let that go with the entire shebang.
The way he did justice to my character as a well-meaning hooligan is something I am ever grateful to him for. The way he has me whistling “Don’t worry, be happy” (again another of my characteristics, this also being my mobile caller tune for decades!) while pulling a stand up wheelie with my left foot twirling the throttle without a care in the world was classic Bamber. Add a superb representation of my facial appearance replete with the bushy moustache and interspersed stubble and there I was. Of course he had taken the trouble to paint an Indian tricolour on the helmet knowing how passionate I am about my national identity but if you had seen the small inscription on the original caricature that was an even bigger surprise to me!
He had scribbled after his signature the following message: “With apologies to Paul Sample” and nothing could be a wonderful tribute cum complement to me that he had done it in a style that the great genius who created the comic strip Ogri would have been delighted with! Since Ogri was a very popular and powerful cartoon script in the British bikes of those times and Paul Sample was truly a man on the top of the charts in his field of endeavour, it was just Jim’s irreverent way of showing his skills with yours truly being the one big guinea pig! I think all three of us had a mighty good laugh sometime or the other on this.
Jim was a great guy but sadly, cancer took him away from us sometime in 2014. Just a couple of years earlier he had been signed up with Dreamworks, part of an Indian company by the name of DQ Entertainment to make an animated children’s film and he was all gung ho about it and had also worked tirelessly on it. I was then helming ZigWheels, the 360-degree automotive division of the Times of India and when I called him just to enquire how he was, he said that he had given up doing motorsport cartoons but he had done one just for me given that F1 had come to India and he wanted me to have that. This plus other stories associated with Jim will follow in future blogs on my website (adiljal.com) but it was atypical of the man. That caricature by Jim was fascinating and a real turn up of life on our roads being even more hair raising than the F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit! I am sure the great guy must be watching all our moves here on terra firma and must be cracking up the angels in the great blue yonder with his comparative takes on life in heaven and earth in his very own impish manner! Miss you pal!