Thursday, March 10, 2011

Father of Indian comics and godfather of many Indian children (my sons' too), is no more...


Uncle Pai
(Founder: Amar Chitra Katha comics)

I don't know how I missed this important news! As soon as I saw this news in The Hindu's 'Young World' section, I was a bit upset. It said that 'Goodbye, Uncle Pai'...the father of Indian comics/mythology, passed away on February, 24th, '11. As the article says, 'he is mourned by a nation that grew up on these beautifully illustrated and ingeniously crafted comics'.

I never tried to know about the author all these years, which is not right, I feel. He was the one who helped me to instigate so much knowledge about not only our culture/mythology, to my sons, but helped me to tell stories to the small children and entertain them. I now know why he is popularly called as 'Uncle Pai'!

My children learnt a lot from his Amar Chitra Katha comics (you can know more about the writers and illustrators of these comics from this Wikipedia link) and I was able to entertain them, educate them, by reading these comic books. I am not a good story teller, but these books helped me to tell stories to my two small children, though I was reading from the books. I can still remember their faces with rapt attention when I was reading. I started reading even before my elder son started going to the LKG. I used to read in English first and then translate into Tamil. The caricatures were so good that my son used to turn pages and repeat the story to his younger brother, exactly like what it said, pointing at the figures!

I don't know how many times I had read this story about Krishna to my children, I don't remember. I remember their BIG smiles while imagining Krishna's antics!

Only now I know that the author of these books, Anant Pai was born on 17th September, '1929 in Karkala, in Karnataka...Karkala is very near to my native place Udupi (I am so proud to know that he is from my state!). He lost his parents when he was two years old. When he was 12, he came to Bombay where he studied chemistry, physics and chemical technology at the University of Bombay and had a dual degree. Despite the scientifically inclined background, Pai had a passion for comic.

He started off with a children's magazine called Manav, which didn't see to much success. It was after a Doordarshan quiz, he happened to catch that the children could answer questions about Greek Mythology but drew a blank when they had to name Lord Rama's mother, that Pai got the idea to start Amar Chitra Katha. And he left his job in The Times of India and started this series of comics (Krishna was the first issue) in 1967. There was no looking back, with the series becoming a publishing milestone, selling over 85 million copies of more than 400 titles in close to 40 different languages!

The Washington Post says, 'The series quickly became a hit with kids and adults alike, and Uncle Pai helped sire a nation's budding interest and industry in comics'.

He started Tinkle in 1980, which also became a hit with young children.

Pai put in close to over 50 years in this field, one that was close to his heart and became his life's mission. His rewards were many, with awards like the Priyadarshini Academy award in 2002 and Vishwa Saraswat Sammaan in 2003.

Two days before his demise, Anant Pai won the first Lifetime Achievement Award at the first Indian Comicon (Comic Convention) held in New Delhi. But Uncle Pai considered the adoring and zealous children who greeted him during his travels as his real reward. He didn't have his own children but had hundreds of other children who loved him the most.

I and my sons' will remember him and his Amar Chitra Katha stories... always! Our whole hearted pranaam to Uncle Pai!

P.S.: I had quoted about these comics in my earlier post about 'books'!


UmaS said...

Oh !!! I too missed this news....

Of course, its becos of him, my girls too came to read many a stories and will correct me during my story-telling times.... ;)

May his soul RIP !!!

sm said...

nice post
he will live forever

Destination Infinity said...

I have not read Amar Chitra Katha, but I have read a lot of Tinkle's - I loved them :D - In our school, teachers had to scold us for reading Tinkle, as we were already in 8th Std, and were supposed to read bigger and fatter books! But Tinkle is Tinkle :)

Destination Infinity

Sandhya said...

UmaS: I always make mistakes, a very bad story-teller!

sm: Yes, sm!

Destination Infinity: That is funny!

When Tinkle started coming, I had stopped reading and translating, I think! So, am not very familiar with Tinkle!

Bikramjit said...

YEah childhood times went in these comics , I had thousands and almost all the editions that came out ..

May he rest in peace ..


Harish said...

these comics have made me a voracious reader. remembering with nostalgia.

Mr. Ahmad said...

he will live forever in our hearts...

Roshmi Sinha said...

I did not miss the news courtesy my best half. But I feel that the govt. and India has not given him his due. Even in Karnataka... his home state the newspapers/media is agog with all the political machinations and only a few lines in the inside pages were spared for the doyen of Indian comics, who taught generations of Indians our mythology, epics, history, panchatantra, hitopodesh through the ACK, and brought joy to young kids and adults alike via Tinkle.

Deepa said...

I grew up reading ACK. I remember, whenever we went on a journey, I would pester my dad to buy me a ACK comic. Then when I had collected some 10-12, I would bind them together and read and re-read them. Then exchange them with my friends. I learned so much about Indian history and mythology from them. And it is not just the popular stories that ACK has brought to our doorstep. I recently went to Landmark and saw that they have added comics on Dr. Ambedkar, Kalpana Chawla and also of heros from North East India - what rest of India does not know much about. ACK is truly a wonderful instrument for education.

Thank you Uncle Pai. You will be missed! :(

Sandhya said...

Bikram: We too had a huge collection of Amar Chitra Katha books at home!

Harish: I think these comics made my sons too to become voracious readers, later on, like you, Harish!

Mr.Ahmad: Welcome here, Mr.Ahmad! As you said, he is going to live forever in our hearts!

Roshmi Sinha: Yes, I didn't know the news until I read it in the supplementary of Hindu, or maybe it didn't catch my attention before this! We never appreciate our own people or our own heritage, Roshmi...that is the reason he tried to do something about it and he is forgotten now.

Deepa: My children too did that!

Comics about the heroes of N.E., that is news for me! I think I will buy and gift them to some children now.

writerzblock said...

Oh I was a huuuugeeee fan of Amar Chitra Katha.... but I never knew who the creator was :-( Saw the news about Uncle Pai a couple of weeks ago, and only then I realised he was the great man behind the greatest books from our childhood. RIP, Uncle Pai.

KParthasarathi said...

A well deserved and rich tribute.He made epics and folklore popular among children and even grown up adults thro his books

kanagu said...

I have not read Amar Chitra Katha o tinkle... its always the comics from weekly supplements..

But I am sure he would have been the inspiration behind them... he has entertained a generation and he will continue to do so with his books...

RIP Uncle !!!!

radha said...

I read that he was upset that at a quiz, a contestant answered tough questions but did not know the answers to a simple question on Indian mythology and thus he got the idea of starting something like this where he could impart knowledge in a simple manner through his comics.

Sandhya said...

writerzblock: Even I didn't know about the author until I saw the news in the paper about his demise, Pal. He is indeed a great personality.

KParthasarathy: My mother was a good story-teller. She was thorough in mythological stories. For me Amar Chitra Katha helped to tell stories to my children. Never knew anything about the author until now, feel bad about it.

Kanagu: Yes, Kanagu...he knew how to tell a story in simple caricatures and simple words.

Radha: Yes, Radha! Even small children were able to follow the story through his pictures and simple words.

Ashwini Sriram said...

The very famous comic, "Tinkle", was his too! :)

I have read loads of them.

There used to be a segment in Tinkle, called "Ask Uncle Pai" or "Letters to Uncle Pai", I forget which. It was quite evident from the letters written by children to him, that he was loved and admired.

He was one of the few people who understood the importance of teaching Indian kids, our mythology, thereby igniting their (our!) imagination with demons, gods, ethical wars and some fantasticly illustrated characters.


Sandhya said...

Ashwini: I am not very familiar with Tinkle because by the time I started buying Tinkle, the children had started reading by themselves!

lily said...

Possibly the most amazing blog that I read all year vintage wedding!?!

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