Dear Mr Laxman,

I must start with thanking you. We never met, but you were a daily blip of joy in the life of a 12-year-old. The year was 1994. I had just moved cities; from hip Madras to a more parochial Lucknow, from a co-ed school to an all-girls’ institution.

Our family of four didn’t have a home as yet, so we all packed into room No. 37 of a state-run guest house for a few months. I missed my friends, I longed for my old routine and I hated the blue tunic, striped tie, steel-buckled belt and black shoes that I had to wear. I didn’t want to be there, but I had to be.

In some strange way, ‘You Said It’ became the laughter at the end of yet another dull school day. I didn’t care much for newspapers at the time, but in the Times of India I found you and ‘Around the World’ — which provided a preteen with all the gossip she could fathom.

I took an instant liking to the Common Man, he with the prickly hair, oval specs and checked shirt. Looking back, I probably empathised with him. In frame after frame he seemed caught in a world that was not his making.

The liberty to comment was not his, but he bore witness. He was common not because he was ordinary, but because he was omnipresent. He was also the 12-year-old thrown into a world which she had not chosen.

The Common Man might have been silent but his curiosity was steadfast. He was understated but he was also distinct. He eavesdropped on the powerful; he travelled to cities and dwelled in villages.

To a child who was more intrigued by reality than fantasy, the Common Man proved to be the unlikely but perfect hero.

I bought The Best of Laxman (1993) and pored over the pages because they told a story of corrupt officials, venal politicians and broken systems.

I wrote a haphazard play drawn from your cartoons and staged it for Teachers’ Day with classmates who donned the roles of babus and netas . I sent the typewritten play to you, with one request — could you send me a cartoon with the Common Man in the limelight?

A simple brown envelope with ‘RK Laxman’ printed at the bottom arrived a few months later. We had moved into our own home by then, school had become less oppressive and I had even made friends.

Along with a typed note you enclosed a cartoon of the Common Man middle and centre. He was no longer an observer, he was the star of his own tale.

Thank you for showing me that every man can be a hero.