The son of a lawyer, Abu was born Attupuratha Mathew Abraham into a Syrian Christian family in Tiruvalla, India, on 11 June 1924. He studied English, French and Mathematics at University College, Trivandrum, and graduated in 1945. He later moved to Mumbai (formerly Bombay) where he became a reporter for the Bombay Chronicle, drawing cartoons in his spare time for Blitz magazine and political journal Bharat. In 1951 he moved north again to New Delhi, where he joined the satirical English language journal Shankar's Weekly to work as a cartoonist and caricaturist. Two years later, he met political cartoonist Fred Joss, who encouraged him to try his luck in London. Abraham arrived in London in 1953 and within a few days, Malcolm Muggeridge, then editor of Punch, had bought one of his cartoons for seven guineas. In spring 1956 Michael Foot, future leader of the Labour party but then editor of the left-wing weekly Tribune, published two of his cartoons. Two days later, David Astor asked Abu to become the Observer's first-ever staff political cartoonist. He signed an agreement shortly afterwards and took his first cartoon to his new editor for approval on Friday 6 April. Astor requested that Abraham sign his cartoons as 'Abu' instead of 'Abraham', since 'any Abraham in Europe would be taken as a Jew and all cartoons would take on a slant for no reason.' The signature 'Abu' thus appeared on his first Observer cartoon on Sunday 8 April 1956 and Abu used this pseudonym for the rest of his career.
By July 1966, Abu was becoming increasingly unhappy with the change in the paper's stance on the Middle East and in September of that year, accepted an offer to move to the Guardian. Here he learnt to draw much faster and simplified his style to pocket cartoons. In 1969 he returned to India and began working as a political cartoonist on the Indian Express in Delhi. He left here in 1981 and chose instead to turn freelance, and in 1988, returned to his home state of Kerla where he continued to draw and write until his death in Thiruvananthapurum, India, on 1 December 2002.
From the guide to the Papers and artwork of Abu Abraham, 1956-2002, (Guardian News & Media Archive)