Uncle Pai passed away last week. It is another bitter reminder that our childhood days are long gone. I, like millions of other Indian kids growing up in the mid-1990s loved them. Railway journeys were exciting because of the inevitable trip to the Wheeler & Co. mobile stalls where my eyes would scan hungrily for the latest issue of Tinkle Digest. Summers were even more looked forward to because of the Tinkle specials ‘ Suppandi’ or ‘Naseeruddin Hoodja‘(who was also my absolute favourite). I cannot remember being more excited about any other birthday gift than the 12 volume ‘Mahabharata’ that my mom gifted me, or the sheer pleasure of opening those old wooden boxes during hot summer afternoons and unearthing the millions of volumes of ACK that my sister had lovingly sorted and bound into volumes. I can so connect to all those carefree summer vacations spent reading and re-reading those books. Not only were they excellently educational but they were my initiation into the intricacies of Indian mythology. I jumped right into it. There were days when every character’s past and role in Mahabharata was etched clearly in my mind, days when I could recite Ramayana in my sleep (That is partly because of my Grandpa, he spent hours everyday telling me the story while I imagined colourful pictures of the monkey army, the evil Raavan (until Abhishek Bacchan came and made me feel like the mythological one was an angel) or the loyal Hanuman. )The news of Anant Pai’s death brings back some heavy duty nostalgia which I am not really a big fan of. It makes me feel so deprived now. But what it also brought to light is the conspicuous absence of cartoonists/children’s story tellers/ grandpa’s who told interesting mythological tales in modern India. (Forgive me for my ignorance if they are, but I doubt anyone has such an impact – except maybe Karadi Tales?)
I know that off-late, my blog is full of complaints about the way modern India is losing out on a lot of things so I won’t prod along the lines of how India has no taste for satire (since people take themselves SOOO seriously or that post R.K Narayan, we won’t have anyone left to fill that space of ‘The Common Man’). The point is we all should laugh at ourselves in a while. While we should aim at educating our genX about Jataka Tales, Panchatantra, Ramayana or gift them the wonder of ACK, we should also aim at encouraging comic-cons. It is astonishing that a country of 1 billion with the most fertile minds does not have a gazillion comic strips, a hundred stand-up comedians( Russel Peter -he is Indian origin!) or picture books. The point is, it does,just that those people never really get a break to the big league. I subscribe to a whole lot of such funny blogs (many of them columnists in renowned newspapers) which keep you in splits. Take a bow ,Ashish Shakya (the co-writer of our only funny show ‘The Week that Wasn’t’). He is one funny man.
It takes a genius to keep a child engrossed in an activity that does not involve plunder of some object. So I totally respect folks like Uncle Pai, the editors/creators of Champak, Chacha Chaudhry (ooo, Sabuuuu), J.K Rowling (now she deserves a standing ovation – 400-600 pages on average and we literally swallowed it!) and all the Cartoon Network shows. Hell, they’ve changed too! No more Pinky and the Brain( my fav) , Dexter, Scooby Doos, Centurions, Swat Cats, The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest, Captain Planet, Johnny Bravo, Top Cat etc etc. I saw recently the cartoons looked way more dumb-er and looked all very Japanese-y to me. (Is it becoz I’m old now?) Gah, the point is certain events act as bitter reminders of the enjoyable times you had and you cannot help but look back and smile wryly thinking about those absolutely blissful days. Why do we grow up again?!
And then we can always sit around and discuss about how the kids of today are missing out on real childhood pleasures. But in this case, they are.
Goodbye Uncle Pai. I enjoyed all those nights and days I spent on the top-berth of a rattling train drinking frooti and reading about Tantri,the Mantri or Shikari Shambu. I wish I could do all that again.
PS: How much do Tinkles cost now? Plus, do the Hoodja specials still come out? I’m adding items to my list I’m making for my next Landmark plunder. 🙂