As a child of the ‘90s, there are a few things that I will always remember fondly, such as Goldspot, which sadly, was phased out before it could star in a porno-style ad with Katrina. Then there was ’90s Bollywood, an action-packed world where Sunny Deol could kill thirty guys just by dancing at them.
And then, dear readers, there was Tinkle.
Tinkle was the literary equivalent of a candy bar that unleashed a bunch of delightful flavours with every turn of the page, be it Shikari Shambhu, Suppandi the simpleton or Raja Hooja, who, for some reason, reminds me of Nitin Gadkari.
So it was with much sadness that I read about the recent demise of Anant Pai, the father of Tinkle and fondly known to his snotty-nosed readers as Uncle Pai.
This was a man who, having lost his parents at the age of two, went on to create a world of wonder for millions of children across India with Tinkle and the Amar Chitra Katha comic series. (The latter re-introduced kids to the Indian epics, and most importantly, taught them that women in ancient India had huge bazoongas. Also, it seemed that the Savita Bhabhi-meets-Munni-Badnaam look was in vogue back then, helped by the fact that the weather was much more pleasant, because global warming hadn’t been invented yet. See, Uncle Pai taught us to think scientifically too.)
I must’ve started reading Tinkle at about age six or so. Of course, this is abysmal by today’s standards. By six, I imagine kids have been dumped into Tolstoy appreciation classes, and if this makes them irritable, then they go to the Centre for Kids with Tolstoy-Appreciation-induced Irritability Syndrome, where the errant are weeded out and packed off to Nike factories in Laos.
However, we lived in simpler times and could spend our entire summer vacations happily sipping on pesticide-cola and enjoying fine comic exchanges like these:
Master: Suppandi, keep an eye on the dog.
Suppandi: Yes Master, but…
Master: But what?
Suppandi: What do I do with the other eye?
Now you may turn up your nose at the humour, but to a kid, that is comedy gold. Plus I dare you to find a smarter joke in any of Akshay Kumar’s films.
Comics like Tinkle and its rival Champak were like gateway drugs to the larger world of Enid Blytons, Archie, the Hardy Boys, Tintin, Asterix and more. Thanks to these, kids like me grew up with a more-than-decent grasp of the English language, which we now use to successfully distinguish ourselves from our grammatically challenged and hormonally blatant brethren on social networking sites.
I suppose the future will involve more such reminders of your childhood having slipped away. Uncle Pai is no more. One day, Sachin will retire. And to make matters worse, Afridi will still be nineteen.
Believe me, I know this sentimentalism is useless. As a responsible adult who never wears the same underwear twice in a row, even if it happens to be his favourite pair of Batman boxers, I completely understand the futility of nostalgia.
However, as a jaundice-stricken kid, sitting on a hospital bed at night, covered from head to toe with a bedsheet, with only a torch and some Tinkle digests for company, all I can say is… Thank you Uncle Pai. May you rest in peace.
(P.S. Tantri was never going to succeed, was he?)
(Note: This is my HT column, dated 27th Feb 2011)