(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'!