Nana Chudama. (Photo: Nana Chudasama’s Book Cover, Rupa Publications)

Nana Chudasama: A Banner Life

As a student, I remember craning my neck out of the window, as the bus or taxi approached the Churchgate traffic light, to read the banner. For the longest time I didn’t know who the author was. And then only knew him as the ‘I Love Mumbai’ man.

The Nana Chudasama banner, located on Marine Drive, Mumbai. (Photo: Akshay Chudasama)
The Nana Chudasama banner, located on Marine Drive, Mumbai. (Photo: Akshay Chudasama)

Once upon a time the city had a Sheriff. He wielded a banner. And used wit, sarcasm, often a good scold, to keep our conscience alive. Nana Chudasama, 86, died on Sunday, Dec. 23.

An activist, founder of GIANTS, city leader and Padma Shri. But more than anything else Mumbai will remember him for the landmark banner.

I spent Christmas afternoon leafing through a wonderfully compiled book, Nana Chudasama’s History On A Banner, compiled by Neeru Nanda and loaned to me by Chudasama’s son and noted lawyer Akshay. It catalogues the banner lines between 1975 and 2010.

The journey through time reinforced two beliefs – that, history repeats itself, you’ll see that in Chudasama’s commentary on Mrs Gandhi’s time, and that the most powerful journalism needs few words.

Nana Chudasama: A Banner Life

These banner lines and explanations are reproduced from the book. Lightly edited.

24.01.1976
24.01.1976

During emergency...crime rate came down; trains ran on time; inflation fell and many industrialists were quoted as saying that strikes, boycotts and demonstrations, were a thing of the past.

16.06.1977
16.06.1977

President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed died in office. It was he (under pressure from Mrs Gandhi) who had signed off India’s democracy by proclaiming Emergency. Nana’s sardonic comment reiterates the common man’s opinion that the President would, in any case, be a puppet.

19.08.1977
19.08.1977

Nana Chudasama taunts the Janata government.

10.08.1978
10.08.1978

Morarji Desai appointed a Commission, headed by BP Mandal, to “identify the socially or educationally backward”.

09.11.1978
09.11.1978

Mrs Gandhi won the Chikmagalur seat.

18.08.1980
18.08.1980

Colour television arrived in India nearly 25 years after it did in the western world. But the programmes were hardly entertaining.

14.07.1982
14.07.1982

The Asian Games 1982 were held in Delhi. The event was surrounded by controversy and politics. Corruption was rampant...

14.01.1984
14.01.1984

Mrs Gandhi’s autocratic control over the media in a seemingly democratic way was suffocating the nation.

19.11.1986
19.11.1986

The state of the opposition in the Rajiv Gandhi government was reduced to zero.

04.05.1987
04.05.1987

In April 1987, Swedish radio announced discrepancies in the $1.4 billion Bofors gun deal. The furore brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government.

03.09.1987
03.09.1987

As advertising came of age hoardings sprung up across Mumbai. Trees were being ruthlessly cut to make way for them.

13.12.1987
13.12.1987

After bold exposes by the Indian Express on discrepancies in the Ambani business and other scandals, notably Bofors, the premises of the paper were raided by orders from the Prime Minister’s office.

08.08.1989
08.08.1989

The Supreme Court first allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation to continue its investigation in the Ambani-Wadia case and within half an hour changed its mind...

02.02.1990
02.02.1990

In February 1990, Kashmir was bitterly cold and the insurgency operation had gained ground. Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had resigned and the new Governor Jagmohan had dismissed the Assembly.

16.10.1990
16.10.1990

The years of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement launched by the VHP resulted in the end of VP Singh’s prime ministership in November 1990.

01.07.1991
01.07.1991

Manmohan Singh’s budget. Nana Chudasama makes a strong comment about the Swatantra Party’s endorsement of free enterprise thirty years earlier. Founded by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, the Swatantra Party was Chudasama’s too when he first stood for elections.

21.05.1992
21.05.1992

The Harshad Mehta scam.

06.01.1993
06.01.1993

After the Babri masjid demolition.

10.06.1994
10.06.1994

Coca-cola relaunches in India. 16 years earlier it was exiled by George Fernandes, then Industry Minister.

27.01.1995
27.01.1995

TN Seshan was the most visible and effective Chief Election Commissioner. On January 1, 1995 he issued a stern dictat that if no identification cards were issued to voters elections would not be held.

31.12.1997
31.12.1997

The month that Sonia Gandhi announced her decision to campaign for the Congress in the 1998 elections.

11.09.1998
11.09.1998

The world was rocked by the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal.

26.04.2000
26.04.2000

The Ketan Parekh scam.

09.04.2002
09.04.2002

In the aftermath of the Gujarat riots.

22.01.2004
22.01.2004

The BJP’s election slogan. It lost the election soon after.

04.08.2008
04.08.2008

Elections were around the corner. Political bargaining was at its peak.

The Banner Lives On...

The records of banners after 2010 are somewhere in Chudasama’s office and hopefully will make it to another riveting book someday. In the more recent years, about 18 months ago, Akshay has taken over from his father. The banner lives on.

Nana Chudasama: A Banner Life
Nana Chudasama: A Banner Life
Nana Chudasama: A Banner Life

All pictures and descriptions are courtesy the Nana Chudasama book and Akshay Chudasama. The descriptions have been lightly edited.