Anant Pai, affectionately called as Uncle Pai, the creator of Amar Chitra Katha[ACK] and Tinkle comics, passed away last evening following a heart attack. I got the news through a tweet, and my mind wandered as I tried to recall the first time that I had purcahsed a Tinkle and/or ACK comic.
It was in the 1980’s, during a train journey that I heard about Tinkle and later ACK. I used to look forward to train and bus journeys only so that I could enjoy Tinkle Digest and ACK. I think I purchased my first Tinkle for 50 paise and I continued purchasing it till the sale price touched a new high of Rs.7/-. I had my own collection which I had started with issue no.50 or so and collected until issue no.350 odd. Then gave it up as I had grown up, or so I thought. But every few years I used to go back to my collection and read a few of the comic strips.
It used to be such a delight to read Shikari Shambhu, Suppandi, Idea Raman etc. I was not just a passive reader, but I got into the active mode too, by collecting the Maggi wrappers and sending it to Tinkle, as part of some contest. For every 5 such wrappers sent in a pack, I received free stickers. In fact, once I also made a small story contribution which was published as a Nasruddin Hodja tale.
Unlce Pai had a small section for himself too, in Tinkle, where he would give us lessons on science and reasoning. He would conduct experiments with a handful of school children as participants and unravel the mystery of science. Explaining gravity and parachutes and chemical reactions too. It was such a novel way to learn science.
Apart from entertaining us, Unlce Pai shaped the course of our history lessons. Through ACK, I absorbed so many history lessons and our great epics too. In fact, there was this wonderful ACK book on Shishupal and Krishna. I had not even heard of Shishupal, and here was this comic book leafing a page through the vast epic of Mahabharat and dishing out this little known character who was beheaded by Krishna who forgave 99 sins but had vowed that Shishupal’s 100th sin would not be forgiven. What an enchanting tale that was.
We learned more history and culture, religion and rituals from ACK than from any other book. Be it Jhansi Ki Rani or Maharana Pratap, it was all covered in ACK. In fact, it went beyond its own initial scope and took-up the mantle of educating us through the years.
I had a huge collection of ACK and Tinkle that I had to get them bound, 25 titles in each volume. I finally gave away the entire collection to a children’s library. I am actually ruing the fact that I gave it away. I should have kept it, coserved my precious collection. What a mistake!
It pained me no end that none of the news channel yesterday spoke about Anant Pai and his silent contribution to society. All channels, chasing TRPs, were going blah-blah-blah over corruption, scam, world cup etc. Kalmadi and his associates were in limelight, and here was a man who selflessly worked to brighten the future of kids, was forgotten just like that. Some celebrities tweeted about the sad demise and thats about it. I expected at least a half hour news capsule on him.
I salute you Uncle Pai for the visionary that you have been, for the untreaded path that you took and shaped the learnings of a million children. You entertained us, taught us how to read, how to learn and grasp; and you gave us the belief to become creative. If not for you, I would not have written my first story that I sent to you for publication. May your soul rest in peace. Amen!
This post was first published on Yahoo Network