Friday, March 25, 2011

Good bye, Uncle Pai

Lights of our elder generation are fading. Panndit Bhimsen Joshi, the doyen of classical music, departed a few days back and now it is Anant Pai a.k.a. Uncle Pai, the creator of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle, two of his most popular magazines for children. The story has it that decades back, Pai witnessed an incident wherein a youngster was asked the name of Ram’s mother, which he could not answer. Pai was immensely pained at this ignorance or disinterest of that generation’s youngsters towards our epics and scriptures and decided to do something about it. The result is Amar Chitra Katha, aptly named.

Pai, during his research, realized that history, in the manner which it was taught, had become a dry subject. Children being children did not understand the importance of history compared to other subjects like science and maths. Pai used simple language and beautiful illustrations to attract children towards history and historical stories. He succeeded and how? The rest, as they say, is history.

I remember old days when my own son was a teenager. I had arranged Amar Chitra Katha to be delivered at our place with our daily news paper. My son had early morning school and when A.C.K. was due he would remind me that it was A.C.K. day and go to school. Such was his expectancy that the moment he returned from school, he would throw his bag and rush for the book. He would lovingly gape at the title page and attractive picture on it for a long time. He would delay opening and reading the inside pages as long as he could so that the thrill of the new book lasts longer. Expectancy and satisfaction were written large in his young face and were worth seeing. He would ask me to get every ten issues hard bind and over the years had quite an impressive collection. He continued with A.C.K. even when he was in college. Alas, the cartoon containing this collection with other books was lost in transit while shifting from one city to another. He is thirty five but even today he regrets the loss, more so now.