Uncle Pai lives on...

Uncle Pai  lives on...

Dear Uncle Pai,

Thank you for creating Amar Chitra Katha, which are way more exciting and fun than foreign comics because they’re totally Indian. My pals and I loved the cool and colourful books which we could buy with our own pocket money. We grew up looking out for each new issue of Tinkle and ACK and fought to grab it first. Then, Reshma akka helped us start our own neighbourhood library of comics. We had loads of fun, sharing our favourite stories and we made new friends too.

We spent many evenings laughing over the antics of simple-minded Suppandi, who made a muddled mess trying to follow his master’s instructions. I wanted to be like Shikari Shambhu, the forest ranger with his famous giant moustache. My friends and I remain huge fans of Tantri the Mantri, the wily minister in Raja Hooja’s court. Little Raaji and Kalia the wise crow kept us turning the pages for more.

We even held quizzes from the Tinkle and ACK books. When I was selected for my school’s quiz team, guess what happened? I remembered the answer to the winning tie-breaker from Tinkle. At an inter-school quiz, we saw others frantically boning up on facts from general knowledge books. My pals and I decided to play it cool. When the questions were fired at us, we remembered reading the googlies on Indian history and mythology in good old ACK. Thank you, Uncle Pai. We never realised how much we were learning while having fun, and we sailed through quiz championships too.

When our housing society celebrated Children’s Day, my friends and I staged a play based on the ACK Panchatantra stories. We had a whale of a time painting our own animal masks. Saraswathi Aunty, our tuition teacher, guided us with rehearsals.  Reshma akka helped us turn old sarees and bedsheets into costumes and props. Rahul as Chanakya covered his head with a skin-coloured sock to look bald. On our big day, the show went on beautifully until Rahul tripped over his dhoti and fell, breaking Chandragupta’s cardboard sword!

Saraswathi Aunty said many children in our country never managed to go to school. We decided to share our ACK and Tinkle comics with Balu, Girish and Sowmya, the children of our domestic help and watchman. They loved the pictures and stories so much, they soon learnt to read and speak simple English sentences. They did well in school and Balu has joined a computer course while Girish and Sowmya now work in call centres.

I’ve joined college this year. My tattered old Tinkle comics and ACKs, stored lovingly in a corner of my bookshelf, are a part of the little child I was, and the person I want to grow up to be. I felt sad to learn that you are no more in this world.

We cannot see the air, but we know it is there when the wind blows. I know your spirit will remain among us and continue to inspire new generations of children through your books.

Yours sincerely,
Gautham

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