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In today's world, cartooning is becoming a contentious issue, unfortunately perceived as a deliberate attempt at demonizing the 'other'. This was not so in late 19th-century colonial India when a fine cartoonist could summarize a welter of perspectives."The Avadh Punch", a weekly from Lucknow, under the stewardship of its formidable editor, Munshi Sajjad Husain, was published from 16 January 1877 till its closure in 1936. Virtually the first Indian newspaper to publish cartoons as we know them today, it provided a platform for some of the greatest comic writers in Urdu literature.Inspired by, and like the "London Punch" (1841-2002), it became a household name notable for dignity, geniality of satire and good taste. It laid the foundation of the Urdu short story and of literary journalism, and rendered the same service to the Urdu novel as "The Tatler" and "The Spectator" did to the English novel. Such was the popularity of the "Avadh Punch" that, by the end of the 19th century, 70 Punch papers/magazines had appeared from more than a dozen cities across the nation. Each of them reflected mainly on British rule from the experiences of over 300 million Indians with a long and proud past, but who were subjugated by force of arms and by commercial and diplomatic duplicity. Equally lampooned were those who abandoned their own inherited cultural and intellectual legacies in preference of Western models.Wit and humour as pacifist tools of devastation constituted an apt response to the situation. A thought-provoking tome, "Wit and Humour in Colonial North India" also presents a selection of Wilayat Ali Bambooque's writings, and Archibald Constable's commentary on some of the illustrations that appeared in the "Avadh Punch".
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