On 17 September 2015, Google users in India woke up to a Google “doodle”—a temporary refashioning of the Google logo—that celebrated renowned Indian painter MF Husain. For several years now, Google doodles have celebrated numerous Indian icons such as the actress Nargis, the writer RK Narayan, the cartoonist Anant Pai and the politician and social reformer BR Ambedkar. However, the choice did not find favour with everyone.
On the same day, a twitter account that describes itself as “an independent initiative by RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] Swayamsevaks” tweeted that “Google India should apologise for insulting the nation and Hindus by showing MF Hus[ai]n on his [sic] front page.” The account further noted that, “Hus[ai]n insult[e]d Hindus by allegedly portraying deities and Bharat Mata in [the] nude.” Google has not responded to these tweets.
Incidentally, 17 September is also the birth date of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who began his political career in the RSS and is now a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a party to which the RSS often provides ideological direction. In the past, Liat Ben Rafael, one of the three managers of the Google Doodle programme,reportedly said that the team prefers to “commemorate people who are no longer living,” and that one of their principles is to “avoid politics.”
Intrigued by the idea of a Modi doodle, The Caravan spoke to three Delhi-based illustrators and asked them to illustrate, what they thought, would make for a befitting doodle featuring the prime minister. Published here are their designs, along with a note on the concept behind their work.