Thursday, May 13, 2010

Champaks and Tinkles and more...

Continuing the ACK Blog that I wrote last, there was a wide world for us young readers back then. Champak was looked forward to every fortnight when the postman used to drop it in. Champak, you might remember, was that small sized colorfully illustrated magazine full of life, of animals who dwelt in Champakvan and Nandanvan apart from other children stories and a few comic strips in it of Cheeku the wonder rabbit and others. Then there was Tinkle too, which was loved by all. Initially I used to get the larger sized Tinkles, then I remember getting the smaller sized fatter versions of it in the form of Tinkle digest. Fond readers might remember Shikari Shambhu and who can forget Suppandi and his goofiness.

There was a phase when I also read up Chacha Chaudhari with his red turban and stick and Sabu who hailed from Planet Jupiter. These were of course our own home bred super heroes who saved the world! And who can forget, whenever Sabu gets angry, volcanoes erupt!

I’ m not sure if a lot of people read Chandamamas, but they were one of my favorites too. I had amassed quite a collection of Chandamamas right from the 60s from various ‘raddi’ and scrap stores! They used to have several amazing folktales from all over the world and different parts of India. There used to be an engrossing serial story too in each volume and typically continued for the year. And it was from Chandamama that I learnt about Vikram the king and Betal the ghoul who put up an ethical or moral question after a story recited to King Vikramaditya in an eerie cremation ground with strong gusts of wind and terrifying voices around. Unfortunately with the technology boom and changing times, I am not too sure how well it has adapted though I hear they are out with a revamped look but I didn’t really see it in the regular book stores.

The American world of Archie also had us hooked and his perpetual dilemma back then over Betty and Veronica kept us commiserating with Betty and bitching about Veronica! Now I believe, Archie proposed to Veronica. That was big news a couple of years back! Besides the American teens, the Gauls Asterix and Obelix who entertained then, well, still have me in splits over their banter and the magic potion by Getafix is still quite potent! Tintin and his dog too led me through several adventures along with Captain Haddock (I still remember his characteristic ‘Blistering Barnacles’! though I haven’t read it for long now), and the forever bungling up twin detectives Thompson and Thompson.

Besides the comics ofcourse, there was a world of Enid Blytons to plunge into. Magic, adventure, mysteries, school stories, simple stories, the lady had it all! I guess, giving me an Enid Blyton was my Moms way of getting me out of the way! She did try some of the childrens classics too such as Tom Sawyer etc, but I guess, I stuck to the Enid Blytons!

Then as we grew up we graduated to the teen detectives in Nancy Drews, Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock and baffling mysteries of Agatha Christies. I guess, that was the last of my childhood reading and then suddenly I just wanted to read other books!

I certainly am thankful that these delightful books were a part of my childhood and they certainly inculcated the habit of reading in me!

What do you remember of your reading as kids?

Amar Chitra Katha

Mythology is the study of the myths or folklore of ages gone by and been a part of the human life since the most ancient of civilizations.  I have been fascinated by the subject, especially Hindu Mythology since Anant Pai started his comic series Amar Chitra Katha.  The vivid imagery and the gripping storylines about my favorite characters suddenly stopped making Religion a bore.  The innumerable Hindu Gods and Goddesses suddenly had a story behind each of them rather than my just recollecting what each stood for. I understood the trinity of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer when the other Gods went to them each time when they were in trouble.  I could feel my spine tingle when I saw Maa Kali in her terrifying form with her long black hair, the garland of skulls and large eyes and blood red tongue and saw why the rakshasas had run amuck on her arrival.   My personal favorite has always been Indra and Vritra with the front cover of an image of a towering Vritra and a charging Indra with his thunderbolt embedded in my memory for good.

No TV serial made the stories of Ganesha, Lakshmi, Parvati, Indra, Dashavatar, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, the Goddesses come more alive than when I saw the sketches in ACK.  The later series of historical figures, our independence struggle leaders, the volumes on other religions such as Jesus Christ, Zarathushtra, Guru Tegh Bahadur added to my repertoire of wonderful tales and even History ceased to be boring.   

When people talk about making education interesting and interactive, I always find myself wondering as to why they simply don't convert all the history books and Geography books to comics!  I am sure that would gainfully employ lots of talented artists as well as make life much more fun for students apart from them remembering it better thanks to the visual aspect.

Ofcourse, ACK though had steered clear of most censures, the depiction of the evil Asuras as black skinned and the devas as fair skinned has always been controversial.  The violence depicted in several of the battlefields has also been subject to criticism and much has been said about how much blood should be shown to children.  Well, I ll say, in these terrorizing times of lurking terrorists, its better that they are aware of the bloodshed that exists in the world and the grief it causes. 

I am still a big fan of ACK, but now I do wish they came out with newer titles instead of basking in the glory of the ones I read as a kid.  I would certainly love to read about modern day heroes in an easier way than read their fat expensive biographies and also read about other cultures’ mythological characters such as the Egyptian and Greek.  Do tell me what was your favorite and what would you like to read in ACK?