01 July 2011

Comic life of an Indian child!!

What is your most memorable story from childhood?

You may not recall them at first but then there are times when you come across a book or a story and all those childhood stories come rushing back. That is exactly, what I feel when I see a comic book. 

I come from a small town born and brought up on doze of local Hindi comic books rather than fancy English ones to the likes of Archies, Calvin and Hobbes, TinTin or Aestrix. My childhood stories were versatile in their own way - Chacha Chowdhury, Pinky, Biloo, Nandan, Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Lotpot, Champak, Nandan, Chanda mama, Bikram Baital, Sinhansan Battisi, the silly duos of Motu-Patlu or Chhotu Lamboo,  or Indian super heroes like Nagraj, Dhruva,  ohh how I loved all of them.

In the world of Marvel & DC comics we Indian kids had our own world of Diamond comics and Raj comics (though I didn't care then as to who the publishers are) – gulping down even the small strips of cartoons appearing in daily newspapers. In fact my earlier lessons of computers came from 'Chacha Chowdhuri ka dimaag computer se bhi tez chalta hai' and astronomy from 'Saabu the tall is from Jupiter the biggest planet in solar system'. For us funny was Suppandi jokes and pranks of Billu and Pinky. They were the household names not to forget that kids were actually named so. The themes of these comic books were local like Republic day celebrations or Indian festivals of Diwali and Holi.  Our mythology and history was from Amar Chitra Katha and stories of 'Sinhasan Battisi'. They came with settings, morals and principles similar to our families and schools.

I remember how I used to save money to buy comic books which were generally Rs 10 for a big edition and Rs 5 or 7 for a small edition. Sometimes my parents gave me monthly pocket money of Rs 10 and all I did with it was buying comics. Sometimes I used to rent a book for Rs 2 when I could not manage the money to buy it. The shop keeper was generally a grouchy guy who used to make money from little kids, charging extra if we delayed the return of the book.  My mom used to buy me comic books sometimes to bribe me on her shopping tours. I used to finish reading them there itself while following her from shop to shop or on our rickshaw ride back home. There was this cousin of mine who had this huge collection of comic books – must be 100s with every nook and corner of their house brimming with books. I used to love visiting their home and start reading his books starting morning till evening till mom dragged me back home. 

Last year when I went home, I visited my old time shopkeeper and asked him for the old comics. He was still selling them and surprising at the price of Rs 15 or Rs 20. I even asked him if he would rent me the comic book, he grew worried and said 'No No we don't do all that'. I could not tell him that I used to come to his shop as a kid, somehow he was only a business man and not a comic man. But I did get my share of books and read the stories to my little niece.

In my library of all the adult fiction, action thrillers, magical fantasies, suspense and murder, coffee table books, award winning authors, worldly tragedies and human quandaries, I have added a few days of my own childhood. The bed time stories of


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