Comic reliefs

The thrill of leafing through comic books was a joy indescribable.

Many years ago, when I was a teenager, and walking with my father in the neighbourhood park, we stopped to rest on a bench. The bench was already occupied by a couple of old men who were discussing how unread the younger generation was. Suddenly, one of them turned to me and asked, “Have you read Kalidasa’s Shakuntala?” When I replied in the affirmative, he was quite amazed.

“Really?” he exclaimed. “Have you read the original Sanskrit or a translated version?” “I have read the Amar Chitra Katha comic,” I explained innocently. He practically had a fit!

I have adored comics all my life and still do. Once an uncle visited us and he brought with him the best gift we children have ever received - his own collection of Phantom and Mandrake comics - all old editions containing stories we had never read before.

At nine years of age, such a gift lifted me straight to heaven! The thrill of leafing through the carefully preserved comic books and reading the fascinating and fanciful stories was a joy indescribable.

Even though I knew the comic characters were all imaginary, I still believed them to be real. Whether it was Casper the Friendly Ghost or Wendy the Good Little Witch or Superman or Archie and Jughead - they were all my favourites. In later years, we used to read small pocket comic books containing school stories, war stories and love stories.

Then came the big sized Tin Tin and Asterix comics which were in a class by themselves. Amar Chitra Katha comics were advertised as the only comics welcome in schools and sure enough, they were welcome. In fact, I remember several teachers who used to borrow them from us children to read during their free periods.
Today the comics I devour are the newspaper strips.

There is much wisdom in cartoon strips. In fact, to be a cartoonist, you have to be not only an excellent artist with a sense of humour, but you also have to have a philosophical bent of mind. Many great truths are expounded in these strips sugar-coated with humour to make them palatable. In one, a father advises his son saying, “I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did.”

The son replies, “Don’t worry. I’ll make my own.” How true it is that we try to protect and shield our children from failure and disappointment without realising that making mistakes is inevitable and the best way to learn.

In another strip, a teenager bemoans, “The holidays are almost over and I haven’t finished doing all the nothing I wanted to.” How right he is! Holidays are meant for relaxation, rewinding and recharging which basically means doing nothing! One mother advises her daughter, “Always look for the best in people even if you have to use a magnifying glass!” True again! The other day I read a strip in which the impecunious husband tells his wife, “This Christmas, let’s just exchange glances.” Ha ha!

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