Monday, February 28, 2011

Goodbye Uncle Pai

Last week on Feb 24 2011, the world lost one of the best comic writers – Mr. Anant Pai – fondly known as Uncle Pai. He is most famous for being the father of Indian comics through series like “Amar Chitra Katha” (ACK) and “Tinkle”, which have been the food for thought for many Indian kids since the 1970’s. Indian kids valued Uncle Pai even before they were taught the mathematical value of Pai in their algebra class = 22/7!

The series of stories interwoven in ACK typically wove around mythology and gave people like me a good eye over the Indian mythological series of Krishna, Mahabharatha, Ramayana or some folk tales like Panchathanthra, which we would have otherwise never ever known. Though the “Ramayana” and “Mahabharatha” television series telecast by broadcasting company Doordarshan on Sunday mornings brought everything to life, ACK still holds the key to understanding the nuances of these epics. Though over the years – once I reached my teens, my ACK’s and Tinkle’s gave way to Archies, Asterix, Tintin – the Indian comics always held a special place in my heart.

Our family wealth of ACK’s and Tinkle digests have been preserved well by hard binding, when they were purchased about 30-35 years ago. This would be the only ancestral property we can offer for the future generations! The only reason why this is possible is only because of fathers patience, foresight, skill and principle to keep books carefully. After my sister had patiently finished all the ACK’s and Tinkle’s i went through those same books, characters, stories, crumpled pages like she had and re-lived the tale narrated by Uncle Pai. I distinctly also remember the first page of Tinkle, which always used to have a welcome note for the kids from Uncle Pai.This Diwali, when i was in India for vacation, i safely rescued this treasure of "The Chandrasekarans" during the annual spring cleaning and put it atop the loft for further preservation.

Tinkle was amazing with a blend of interesting characters and their simple and unique tales. Each issue had atleast 10-12 stories, each story with its own central character. Some of the central characters are Suppandi – the village simpleton who sincerely follws misunderstood instructions, Kapish - a clever monkey, Kaalia – the crow, Tantri the Mantri – tale of a scheming minister, Nasrudjin Hodja – a man with witty brain, Shikhar Shambhu – the hunter who is meek but potrays himself as the greatest hunter and many more. It wasn’t unusual to spot the Tinkle’s and ACK’s dangling on book stands in railway platforms and stations with their various colors and characters speaking out to kids like me. We used to get so excited watching them that the next 10 minutes used to be spent pestering our parents to part with that 10 Rupee note to buy a copy immediately for us or a journey full of our tantrums. Its another matter that the books used to be a fast read and ignored after reading front-back in less than 40 minutes.

Apart from ACK, Tinkle I used to follow the Diamond Comic series from Pran. Pran, like Uncle Pai created memorable characters like “Chacha Chaudhary”, “Billoo”, “Chacha Bhatija”, “Fauladi Singh”, “Chotu Lambu”, “Lambu Motu”, “Motu Patlu”, “Mama Bhanja”, “Pinki” and “Tauji”. Each character had a comic book series and interesting series. During the schooling years, the summer vacation between April and June used to be spent turning pages between Uncle Pai’s and Pran’s comics.I did dabble a bit on "Chandamama", "Champak" (thanks to the reminder on Champak from wifey!), and a south special children regular magazine called "Gokulam" but these were somewhere lacking the punch of Pran or Uncle Pai.

Hats off to Uncle Pai for inducing the folklores and mythology of India through his comics. Else, all we would have remembered were Veronica, Betty, Richie Rich, Superman and Tintin! Kids of this generation - take a break and get out of your Nintendo's, X-Boxes, Facebook profiles, TV channels and grab that ACK or Tinkle! It will do you a world of good.


Meenakshi Deepak said...

Yeaa.. We will remember Uncle Pai.. He has been an inpiration to all of us when we were kids.. Our vacations wud never be complete without Tinkle, Champak, Gokulam etc..

He will always be alive in our hearts through his work..

Ankush Arora said...

Yeah..i still remember those days of 24hrs train travel to delhi in summer vacations and all i did was read tinkle / tinkle digest!!

Unknown said...

U r very right Deepu. Even we were benefitted when my kids used to bring them home. One more interesting kids magazine was 'chandamama'. Uncle pai has left a great legacy for kids for self study of indian ethics, values and morals and for the parents a guiding path.
..shekhar iyer..

Anu said...

Absolutely a part of our groing up years...The pleasure we used to have while reading it and the binded collection is like a real treasure even today!! Luckily I could catch hold of a fe AMK in London and my daughter Sanjana just loved reading it....