For a ‘brand journey’ assignment on Amul, my then colleague Anant Rangaswami (then editor of Impact magazine, now editor of Campaign India) suggested I meet some veterans who had a significant role to play in the successful Amul campaign, besides contacting the company and the advertising agency that then handled the account.
It was after my interaction with Mr K Kurian that I came to know about Mr Eustace Fernandes, who had worked on the immensely popular Amul mascot-the mischievous girl with her frock of polka dots. He shared enough time, giving me some invigorating stuff on the plan behind the mascot and the unheard of outdoor campaign that Amul had embarked on at that point of time. It was in 1966 that the mascot was created.
For a young journalist, it was an experience of wonderment and of pride too, to meet the person who was behind such a popular mascot.
His inspiration for the mascot came from his interactions with the street kids, he said.
He shared how in those days, when digital media didn’t exist, it was necessary to ensure that other artists could make the mascot quickly, so that the frequent Amul takes on various issues could be put up in time on hoardings.
He said one reason why a girl mascot was picked up was because girls could get away after making naughty statements.
On a personal request, he did sketch the Amul girl in front of me in no time, something that I preserved in the drawer.
He was mellow, down-to-earth and a man who seemed to be always busy making use of his talents for bringing a smile to some of the downtrodden people he was connected with.
While I was having a conversation with him, I could see he was involved in designing and creating many greeting cards for people. He was quite computer savvy and my connection with him stayed beyond the Amul story.
He immediately came across to me as not just an artist, but a person with a conscience for the underprivelged.
Since I also liked to sketch in my free time, I sought a few tips from him and he was kind enough to share them, always commenting on my sketches whenever I mailed them to him.
He was a bit perturbed by the fact that he did not get the right credit for the Amul mascot, but he was a man too busy with his creations to dwell long on it. He did work on some other mascots as well which did not get the popularity that Amul’s enjoyed but I think he was multi-talented.
That meeting in Bandra home remains etched in the mind both as a journalist and an aspiring artist and I wonder how such talented people can sometimes be so humble, so work-oriented (he was 71 when I met him in early 2006).
There is something about achievers of the old-world — the humility and the ease in approaching them and discovering their magic — that I could easily see in him.
He was the relentless artist for me, and his art did touch many a heart and lives. May his soul rest in peace.
Saurabh Turakhia is currently working as a financial reporter with mergermarket, an online business publication and part of the Pearson group
To read Jameel Gulrays' tribute to Eustace Fernandes, click here.