My tryst with ACK began when my parents bought the first book ‘Krishna’.
The news of the demise of Uncle Pai unsettled me. I have never met the man, nor have I exchanged a word with him, but I developed a deep affection and respect for him through his Amar Chitra Katha comic books.
My tryst with the immense series began when my parents bought the first book ‘Krishna’ priced at Rs two way back in the ’70s as a pacifying gift to my little brother because they had got me some hair accessories. We must have read the book a zillion times for we knew every frame of it by heart. There was no looking back since then and we collected close to a hundred of the series even as we graduated to reading ‘real books’.
Nevertheless, we kept our antennas up for reading ACK whenever an opportunity presented itself. Our dad belonged to a book club reserved one of his two cards to get us old and new ACK and Tinkle all the time. We always made it a point to read it several times before returning the book the next day!
Our interest in the nuances of languages, literature, history, music and art can be traced to our quality time spent in the company of these picture books. We conducted quizzes based on the books and discussed the characters.
We understood that a conjunction like ‘but’ could encompass a whole unspoken argument when Lakshmana uttered the word, when told by Rama to leave Sita in the forest in the book ‘Sons of Rama’. The reading of ‘Vasavadatta’ urged us to play on the Veena like her royal spouse Udayana and possibly charm elephants some day. When we studied Mauryan history in school, it appeared as if we had an edge over other student because we were equipped with the reading of ‘Chanakya’. Perusing ‘Kannagi’ taught us that we must not cow down when confronted with injustice. The list could go on.
Most people who are in their 30s and 40s will find themselves nodding in agreement, for their rendezvous with ACK must have more or less been the same.
These books have the potential to make a palpable difference to those who read them during their formative years. Uncle Pai has become ‘Amar’ (immortal) in the true sense of the word for his works are invaluable, relevant and timeless! When I console myself saying, “Uncle Pai is dead, Long live Uncle Pai” — it is with mixed feelings!