Monthly Archives: July 2013

Roads of Bhubaneswar

Roads are not just stretches of cement that you travel on to go to a place.

You spend considerable amount of your time on them. They make you choose your time of travel, the vehicle you will mount, and how long you will take to reach your destination.

Riding on a road is not a task, it is an experience. 

Advertisements give us many reasons to enjoy the experience. Some are talking about the sublime feeling of cruising on a marble carpet, whereas the others are talking about everyday realities like a frugal engine and fuel saving. While Priyanka Chopra asks us why only boys should have fun, there are others asking you to Feel Like God.

But this is where reality strikes. 

If you are Salman Khan, you can run over a few people and still continue being human. For the others, however, you could be the Monthly Policeman Gift Provider if you don’t watch the road. 

In terms of absolute numbers, India has the most number of accidents in the world. The National Crime Records Bureau reports that of the total 3,90,884 accidents that took place last year, the majority were Road Accidents – a whopping 35% of all accidents. The report throws no light on the large number of people who slit their wrists after watching Jab Tak Hai Jaan, but one assumes they fall under the ‘Other Unnatural Causes’ category. 

Tamil Nadu and Goa have the largest number of road accidents. Goa, one can assume is because of all the booze flowing around. And Tamil Nadu, because as Rohit Shetty will tell you in his next film, is full of dhoti clad men who wear moustaches and drive Tata Sumos that are flying in the air. 

Not surprisingly, Bhubaneswar doesn’t rank in the list of places with the most accidents. And I am sure I know why.

Bhubaneswar has bureaucratic roots. It did not happen because the Portuguese wanted to set up a city with a port. Neither did it happen because a Mughal ruler wanted a holiday home in the summers. 

Bhubaneswar was commissioned as the capital city when it was clear (even 60 years ago) that Cuttack will not be able to handle the pressure of the bulls, and the politicians of the state at the same time. Bhubaneswar was planned as the new capital and an architect was assigned to design the town.

The roads of Bhubaneswar are not clammy or narrow. They are wide and well planned. A National Highway (NH-5) runs through the town, and the other roads are reasonably wide and airy. Unlike their bigger brethren, traffic jams here don’t really last for more than ten minutes, as research has shown that it takes about six minutes to shoo away an animal from the road. 

That is during the day. In the nights, the roads adopt a different character. They are not just symbolic of the journey of life. They are teachers of ancient wisdom. Wisdom that Ashwatthama learnt aeons ago, in the Mahabharata.

The wisdom that if you can’t save your ass, you are going to be dead meat.

 

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Flyovers are pretty much the in-thing on the roads of Bhubaneswar.

Every popular traffic spot has now been converted into a circular formation of vehicles, above which there is a flyover to reduce the congestion. 

The flyover that connects Jaydev Vihar to Acharya Vihar on the NH-5 has been placed right in the middle of the town. In the night, one gets a view of the entire city, snaking its way towards development, with all the white and red lights from vehicles forming a gigantic, shiny snake. 

This place is a favourite for photographers, who often line up to get a good shot of the town. It’s also a favourite for people who like to answer nature’s call, while they’re feeling on top of the world. 

But the flyover also has another striking feature. None of the lights on it work. 

The lights stand in the middle of the flyover, like gigantic shoots of bamboo that have curved arches on either side. They stand and watch the night pass by, but they will not flutter and come to life. Passive observers. 

And this is true of other roads as well. 

Of course, I mean other roads where normal mortals live. The roads in front of the Chief Minister and Governor’s residence are well lit. In fact, a trip to their abodes in the night might make someone think it is Diwali, with the sparkling rows of different light that pepper the path. 

But for lesser mortals, the roads are teaching you life lessons. Because, I guess once you’ve become a politician, you have already learnt everything there is to learn. 

Pick any road in Khandagiri, or Nayapalli, or roads inside colonies, and try to observe what is going on. 

It will be difficult, of course, because the lights don’t work. But look closely, and you will find men, women, and children learning to negotiate the challenges that the roads are throwing at them. The vehicles are cutting through darkness, giving the commuter the heady high of a jungle safari, within the confines of an urban space.

This is on a highway. To hell.

This is on a highway. To hell.

And then, just when you have made your peace with the lights, Mother Cow comes into the picture. 

I am sure if someone did some research on the number of cowsheds present in different states, Orissa would rank at the bottom of the list. 

Because all the cows are out on the streets. On every street, on every road, there will be a corner where the cows come to hang out. 

And the cows are not simply sitting by the side of the road. They are sitting in the middle, facing backwards, almost mockingly. Challenging you to do something about it. If you can. Knowing that you can’t. 

I have always believed that you can see how comfortable an animal is with human beings by looking at its reaction to humans. Dogs on the streets are generally ready to scamper if someone comes near them, probably because they have been pelted all through their lives. 

Cows, I think, have understood after all these years in India, that they’re a privileged lot. That they provide milk and meat and are worshipped at regular intervals and that there are 33 crores of Gods on their bodies. 

So comfortable have they gotten with their stardom, that they are out on the roads, strutting it out in front of human beings. 

Now, dogs and cows don’t generally get along with each other. But here, you will find two dogs lying on the road with a group of cows. They have both understood and accepted that they are cohabitants of the road, and they lay their head down to rest once the sun sets. 

And then, of course there are the regulars. Godmen in the garb of mortals who are helping you along your path to spirituality in their own little way. 

Like those two friends who will ride next to each other on the road, consuming half the road, while talking about crucial things like the boobs of a girl who just crossed them. Or the contractor who has lovingly used inferior quality supplies so that you learn from the potholes about the ups and downs of life.

Like the cyclist whose cycle has no light or indicator or a bell – teaching you that sometimes it is necessary to surrender to a higher power. Or the drunk man who is stumbling along to the other side of the road where the grass is greener. Or the little kid who darts across the road – a reminder that one has to pursue the smaller things in life. Even when there is a fucking truck coming from the other side in top gear.

They are all important life lessons. It is like a reality show where you take part. If you succeed, you reach home and live out another day. If you don’t, well, Game Over. 

So while you are riding on the roads of Bhubaneswar, you are not going from one place to another. You are constantly challenging yourself, you are becoming a better rider.

It is a journey within a journey.

Growing Up in the ’90s – Comics (Part 2)

My world was in a general state of despair.

Chacha Chaudhary had taken over the kingdom of Indian comics, releasing legions after legions of inane characters that would stand in a line and blast my senses. I stood there in front of them, waiting like a man who knew he could fight no more.

Among the litany of characters who came, were Mahabali Shaka, a He Man clone who gave up the forests to fight crime in urban spaces. All the while wearing a costume of a loincloth and a bob cut. Then there was Agniputra – Abhay.

Diamond comics used to give free audio cassettes with Agniputra Abhay comics, and I remember one of them describes Agniputra’s powers, and the entire clip lasted for about five minutes. If Superman met Agniputra for tea, Agniputra would boil the man of steel in a pot and sip on him, he was that badass. And Abhay was his sidekick, a guy who spoke in innuendos with his motorcycle. Depressing!

And it was on a train that I first glanced at them. Graphic illustrations, men with arms that looked like real Arms, albeit Shwarzenegger’s. Women with curves, revealing their cleavages and flying along with heroes.

A smile, some hellos, and a other niceties later, I was reading, for the first time in my life – Raj Comics. Those of you who haven’t heard of Raj Comics should look them up. They were India’s answer to DC and Marvel. Characters like Nagraj – the snake who charmed women and killed bad guys. Super Commando Dhruva – a fighter who could drive US Seals to suicide. The two of them, along with their friends flew, fought, and punched the daylights out of villains.

Also, the stakes were higher here. It was not just a case of a jewellery shop owner approaching Chacha and telling him a gold necklace was missing. Fuck that. Here, real shit was happening.

Evil villains were taking over the world. Villains who weren’t named Gobar Singh and Tingu Master. Here, villains could torment the hero, they were villains I wanted to see dead. Raj Comics was India’s first true graphic novel.

The illustrations were kick ass. Raj Comics kept away from the usual uni-sized boxes narrating the story like other guys who won awards from Indira Gandhi. Here, I had to follow the panels, look at the story. Nagraj’s punch would break out from the panel, blow my mind, and land on the villain on the bottom panel.

The only problem was that they were all in Hindi. It was rare to find a Raj Comic in English, and since we were taught Hindi by a Tamil teacher, my Hindi was practically useless. Yet, I read on, devouring each of the books like a hungry glutton. There were other characters I discovered.

Doga, on whom Anurag Kashyap has long wanted to make a movie. Tiranga, a patriotic superhero who fought for the country. Parmanu who did something related to science that I didn’t bother further researching on. Inspector Steel, who had balls of, well, you get the idea. These were all beautifully illustrated characters who looked like fighters, and spoke like fighters. They didn’t sit at home and enjoy Chachi’s parathas in the evening. Fuck you.

Raj Comics began as a dream.

And sadly, ended like someone poured a mug of cold water on my face and shook me awake.

A friend of mine had brought a comic from ‘foreign’, and I got to see heroes from DC and Marvel for the first time. I read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and turned the pages in disbelief.

Every character that I had loved in Raj Comics, had been lifted. Some of the characteristics were subtle, some blatant.

My heroes, they didn’t even belong to their creators. They were mere bastardised versions of existing heroes. Not only were they blatant copies, they took plagiarism to Pritam Chakraborty levels. Tiranga was Captain America, Inspector Steel was Robocop, Iron Man was Parmanu, Fighter Toads were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Heroes, villains, characters, plots – Raj Comics left no stone unturned.

It was a heartbreak of gigantic, superhuman proportions.  I don’t remember what I read in those days of depression. Probably Archies. Him with his stupid stories that weren’t funny, and which I could never, ever relate to. Here was a guy who would call two hot girls to the beach after school, and they would come dressed in bikinis. In India, we call it porn, thank you very much!

It was during this phase, that I found the friend I had dismissed and tossed away. Years ago.

The first teacher I ever had, was a Christian woman who taught me English. She was kind of scary to look at, but she had a sweet voice, and like all English teachers in the world, a heart of gold.

She would encourage me to read them, but I seldom followed her advice – enticed as I was, by Chacha and his computer se tez brain. There was too much text in the comics she was trying to make me read. I wanted more pictures. Somehow, things didn’t work out between us.

Back then, Amar Chitra Katha, though not technically a child of the 90’s, was fast gaining ground. Part of the trick was that most of the books were based on mythology. This meant that no one could object to us reading them, so there was more social sanction.

Again, while the stories were well narrated, the illustrations on ACK seemed limiting. Again, all the characters looked the same. The only way to tell the difference between the characters was that the gods would be blue in colour. All the women were curvy and had big eyes, and the elders all had the same flowing white beard.

I remember enjoying their Mega packs – Ramayan, Mahabharata, Dashavatar. But there is only so much you can read of Amar Chitra Katha as a child. After a point, you want real people, real roads, real heroes kicking real villain’s asses. Stories that you couldn’t predict the end of. Stories that had a bit for everybody – especially us underprivileged ashramites whose wardens would get a stroke if they saw the cleavage on those women in Raj Comics.

And like a Bollywood film, after the interval, the friend made a come back into my life.

 

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The one image I have of our school warden is of her sitting and reading in the lobby.

She was a tall, frightful woman. She could make you piss your pants by growling at you, and she could punch like Muhammad Ali. And she would sit there in the lobby, a pen in the bun of her hair, smiling at this book.

Tinkle.

Now, I know some of you are groaning. But put yourself in my shoes.

The shoes of a kid who has been disillusioned. Whose heart has been broken because he put his trust and love with someone, only to be devastated. Me and Tinkle did not begin as a torrid affair. There were other children’s books floating around, and so I was skeptical.

There was Champak, with Chiku, that joyless character who did stuff that was neither cute nor funny, in Champakavana. There was Chandamama, where there was one illustration for every 500 words. There was Gokulam, which was full of grammatical errors that would make me want to throw up even as a ten year old. So you couldn’t blame me for taking my time to warm up to Tinkle. By then, the rest of my class had actively gotten into Tinkle. They would share Suppandi stories with me, and I would simply smile.

It was only sometime around my Class 5, that I really started reading Tinkle. Tinkle took the best out of Amar Chitra Katha – the decent illustrations, and the penchant for not making grammatical and spelling mistakes, and carved it to make something new. The biggest trick, for me, however – was something else.

Tinkle did not have one single illustrator. There were specific illustrators for specific stories. While there was the brilliant Savio Masceranhas, there was the more traditional art of Ram Waeerkar too. Tinkle also had its own language. A set of sounds and expressions that you would only find in a Tinkle comic.

Like when someone came running, they would say, “I am coming *puff pant* from the palace *puff*”

Or if it was cold, they would say “Brrr it’s cold”. And if someone was drinking something, they would make a ‘Glug glug’ sound, or a *chomp chomp* sound if they were devouring something.

Tinkle probably got it right with their market research. There was truly bits in it for everybody. I know what you’re thinking: That comics shouldn’t appeal to everybody. They are crafted around a niche, loyal readership. But you forget this is India we are talking about.

Here, parents supervised what we read, sometimes going through the entire comic before giving it to us. And my mother had these ‘Censor Sensors’ that beeped like crazy when she suspected something was going to corrupt my pure, innocent mind. She had already thrown out an illustrated book that contained fairy tales by the Grimm brothers. Stories like Cinderella and Rapunzel that she suspected would make me fall in love. Little did she know that little boys don’t fall in love. They fall in lust. And I had already read the Nagraj comic where Sarpini makes an appearance. Whenever she frowned about me reading comics, all I had to say was that ‘Warden Aunty’ reads them too, and she had nothing to reply.

And so, I began to read Tinkle at home, without a fear of it being snatched from my hand and thrown in the gutter.

Tinkle, like I was saying, understood the market dynamics and produced comics that could be digested by the entire family. It was not just one story, but a series of different stories that were colourful and interesting, and if you didn’t like something, you could just skip to the next in the line. They didn’t give freebies like stickers and audio cassettes, probably because they knew that the comics were enough to hook us on.

I generally skipped the parts that had Uncle Pai explaining the wonders of science to some enthusiastic kids who spent their summer holidays with an old man in his laboratory. I also skipped the ‘It Happened To Me’ bits – some of them seemed made up, and anyway, they could be read when you were done with the rest of the book and before you passed it on to your friend. There were the others that I didn’t give too much attention to – like Little Raji and Ramu and Shamu, though I remember that Ramu – Shamu’s mother had big eyes, wore polka dotted sarees, and had a curvy body. But the stories were just one page long, and there was nothing in it for me.

I also skipped the ‘See and Smile’ and ‘You Said It’ sections – I thought they were just there for infants and very young children in the family.

You keep these out, and what you have, is a very good comic.

Tantri the Mantri, that man with the peculiar chin who for some reason reminds me of L.K. Advani. His misadventures in trying to attain the throne, and his indomitable spirit.  Shikari Shambhu, that adorable hunter whose eyes I never saw, but I remember the bisons and deer that would be hung on his wall. They would smile when he entered the house, and frown when something was wrong.

I hated Kapish and Kalia the Crow. Again, stuff that you read before you passed it on. I mean, what was Kalia’s problem with nature? Why was he trying to fuck with the food chain? If Doob Doob and Chamataka wanted to eat rabbits, they should be allowed to. Why were these people interfering? And At least Kalia did something smart in every book, outwitting Doob Doob. What the hell was Kapish doing?

You rescue your friends my stretching your tail, man? Seriously? I understand we are a Hindu majority nation and all that, but why take it that far?

My true love, however, were the new stories that would come in every book. The ones that would be contributed by other children, people like me. If you waited till the Summer Vacations, Tinkle brought out this large sheet, thick edition of their comics called Summer Special. These were the ones I sought out.

My parents would never buy me a comic that cost more than 50 rupees, so the start of a new year at school always had on the top of its priority list hunting for Summer Special editions.

You spotted them being read on Sundays. You approached the guy, smiled, tried to talk nicely and ask it from him. Or, you approached the guy, smiled, snatched the comic and ran like hell. Either way, it ended up with you after some effort. I remember reading them in a quiet place, where there would be no distractions.

The Summer Special comics had adventure stories in them. Contributions of children that had children who went to their grandparents’ home in the summer and met this shady looking man with a stubble. There was always something suspicious about him, and all hell broke loose when someone noticed that there was a theft. There was no murder, of course (remember the family audience funda?), but the crimes were grave enough to run after. Especially if you were children in a Summer Special Tinkle who came to their grandparents’ house for the summer.

The children would follow the man, and he would often lead them to a secluded building, or a lighthouse. They would enter the building, but something would give in – their dog would bark, or someone would trip on a stone, and they would have to rush back.   They would go back home, discuss the events, and hatch a plan. The plan was never revealed to us, all we got was the dialogue box going ‘psst…psst’.

The next day, they would execute the plan. The dreaded criminal would be on the verge of pulling off a dangerous job, and they would barge in with the police to save the day.   The police would congratulate the kids’ parents for the smart children they have, and they would walk into the sunset, happy.

Not all stories were like this, of course. But they were always well written stories. Written by children like me.

If you zoom out and look back at the larger picture, Tinkle comics would be undisputed winner of Indian comics. They understood that it was all about loving your family, and published stories that you could read while loving your family. After all, they were going to give you the money to buy your next comic.

I remember trying to write a story that I would send to Tinkle. I would write down these stories and reread them. But then I would remember the exciting stories I had read, and doubt if mine would match up to them.

I never came up with anything to send to Tinkle, but I had the address written on my notebook all the time – just in case.

I doubt Tinkle will accept any of my stories now!

Loot of a different Era

Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan was the film of the year for me.

However, I had known before watching it that it was adapted from the story of Anurag Kashyap, and with him involved in the writing, I knew that it wouldn’t be bad at all. Also, Udaan was an unconventional story, and when you make an unconventional story in a cliched industry like Bollywood, you have the entire world open in front of you.

I was curious to see Lootera because I have always believed that it is tougher to make a genre movie. Especially when characters break into songs every half an hour – be it out of love, lust, anger, or depression. Would it be possible to create a romance (having set it in the 50’s, to boot) that will not seem asinine?

And I am not really a fan of romantic films. Barring Annie Hall and Notting Hill, I have never really connected with a romantic film, as I find the lines too corny, and the premise laughable.

But two minutes into Lootera, I slipped into my seat comfortably.

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lootera

When Varun, an archaeologist arrives at a zamindar’s house, it is not his boots you see first. His boots, his pant, his belt, his shirt, his neck, his eyes, and his face. No.

Lootera begins on sound footing, drawing you into its world. A world that is captured lovingly by Mahendra J. Shetty. A world that is untouched by democracy and its many benefits and failings. A world that is independant, yet dormant. The world of the zamindar who knows that times are changing.

Before we know it, we smile at what is frothing – a slender romance. Like the ones we felt at high school. The soft tickle of a glance, the victory of a snide remark reaching its target. 

Amid the loud exaggeration that we are used to, here the magic lies in chemistry that arises from smart dialogues, just the way it should be.

The film benefits from performances by the cast. While Ranvir Singh and Barun Chanda play their roles to perfection, it is Sonakshi Sinha who stands out.

She has very distinct looks, and Lootera uses it to the hilt. There are no shots attempting to cover her forehead, or make her look chic in shorts. The camera grazes over her sensuously at times, and hopelessly during others.

Much is being said about Trivedi being the next Rahman. There are years to go for him, of course. But there is a clear difference between the two.

Rahman’s music is like powerful and gigantic. It looms over the film like a colossus. If the film lives up to the music, it is a spectacle. If the film doesn’t, it cuts a very sorry figure. Like Sachin hitting a marvelous century, only for India to lose the match.

Amit Trivedi’s music, however, is never larger than the film itself. When it works well, the music makes love to the film, blending together to form moments of cinematic magic. Like in Udaan, the greatest thing about Amit Trivedi’s music is that you don’t really notice it after a point. It is part of the narrative, part of what is unfolding.

And yet, it is not overbearing. Moments of silence are interrupted by beautiful pieces of music – from the Sawaar Loon to the ektara in Monta reFor the connoisseurs, the film doffs its hat to the film of the era.

Lootera is a Bollywood romance that doesn’t make you cringe while watching it. Making DDLJ and Dil Toh Pagal Hai seem like badly done Doordarshan soap operas.

 

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Go watch Lootera. Before it gets outcharmed by Despicable Mitu, or run over by the Flying Sikh next week.

Some will complain that it is slow. But then, not every film has to be fast paced. It’s not a race.

At least, Lootera doesn’t seem to be running in it.

Growing Up In The 90’s – COMICS

When I watched V For Vendetta, I was surprised that it was adapted from a graphic novel. While the film didn’t shake me up so much, reading the graphic novel was a different experience altogether.

It shook me and stirred me. Not so much for the content, but for the form. That a graphic novel, after all just a fancy word for a ‘comic book’, could be an experience like that. I moved on to ‘Watchmen’ and the lesser known ‘Lost Girls’, and while they were two different genres, I am still bowled over by how much a comic can do.

I started reading Asterix around Class 9. It would of course take a few more years to understand all the puns. Everytime I reread an Asterix comic, I seem to understand something which I am sure I wouldn’t have understood the last time I read it. It’s like a Treasure Hunt in a book.

Tintin was always easier on the mind. I started reading Tintin in Class 7. They were beautifully crafted and every comic took you to a different place, like a magical journey.

But of course, like Coca Cola, these were foreign imports that came into my life much later.

Because you see, comics were just things that were bought while travelling on a train.

 

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Whenever I would leave for my boarding school, my parents would buy me a Chacha Chaudhary comic. You can snigger at the amount of respect they gave to my comic reading habit, but you wouldn’t laugh if you saw the girl who was travelling with us. Her parents always bought her the 5 Rs. ‘Wisdom’ magazine that had a picture of a creepy smiling kid on the cover.

Those Wisdom magazines, like the name, had pearls of wisdom strung together with toilet paper and terrible pictures. The entire book looked a dull maroon, and there was just too much information on it, with too few pictures. There were anecdotes, facts, information about places, every page had a quotation at the bottom of the page. I always found the magazine stifling – like an adult is trying to shove some food into your mouth. Large morsels that you couldn’t swallow and hated in the first place.

No wonder the girl next to me cried.

But my parents bought me the Chacha Chaudhary comics and sent me to the school. After I had fought off tears so that my friends did not think of me as a sissy (“Ah! There’s something in my eye, let me wash it and come.”), the time to leave would arrive.

The train would chug off from the station, and after crossing the station, would be near the smelly slum next to the station. People would be shitting behind their huts, which was right in your face. Which made looking out of the window a little difficult. So I would settle down and open the comic.

And what shitty comics they were!

You know how we romanticise nostalgia? How everything that was a part of our past is glorified as ‘Those Magical Days’ and ‘We didn’t Have Video Games, We Played Real Games’ and all that?

I think some of that is bull.

Like, for example, I am glad we have other comics now. I was glad that Big Babool came into the market, ridding us forever of those 50 paisa coins that were so bad that when our teacher told us bubble gums were made from pigs’ tails, we believed her. They had to be, they were that bad.

Similarly with the comics. The comics I used to read were terrible, and I don’t even know where to begin.

First of all, the terrible illustrations. Every Chacha Chaudhry comic would have a cover that would somehow entice you into buying it (Like Sabu hitting a cricket shot), and then you would open it to soak in the disappointment. The cover had a brief introduction about the creator – Pran – and how he had won this award from Indira Gandhi for creating this outstanding comic.

Now, I am sure as adults they saw something deep and stimulating in the comics. Because as a kid, I didn’t see shit.

The illustrations were terrible. All the people looked the same, and their arms, legs, expressions, even their bloody chins looked the same. And the hands!

Pick up any Chacha Chaudhry comic, and notice- The Hand.

The Hand Final

The Hand will be like that no matter what is the story, character, or scene in any page of the book. Character sitting on sofa? Creepy hand comes into play. Character bowling in cricket match, the hand will be there.

And it wasn’t just the illustrations, the comics screwed with my head. I remember reading them in Class 2, and feeling all warm and fuzzy when I read that Sabu is from Jupiter.

My science teacher in school, however, had other notions. She taught us how to mug up the names of nine planets so that we could vomit them in our examinations (My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets). She went on to tell us that there was absolutely no life on any planet (even Jupiter). But Chacha Chaudhry comics had stories where they went to Jupiter and everyone there is a giant like Sabu. I was confused, and shocked.

Now, I understand comics are supposed to be taken with a stretch of imagination. If it was possible for a young boy to go around the world solving cases with his dog and an alcoholic sailor, why was it unbelievable that a man from Jupiter lived with a man and rid the world of evil?

I am fine with that. Its just that the comics were terribly pieces of work. Everytime I finished reading one, I would feel crestfallen. Like a crack addict who is disappointed that he fell for the temptation again.

The comics neither had a great plot, nor any interesting twists. I remember stories where Chacha Chaudhry would outwit the opponent by pointing behind him and saying “Look!”. The person would look, and Chacha would hit him on his head and take his gun*.

[* Chacha Chaudhary’s brain works faster than a computer ]

When all the while there was this giant next to him who could pick up the culprit, dip him in hot oil and eat him up.

It was just bad comics – badly written, and badly illustrated.

I read the comics for a few years. There were other characters in the Diamond Comics stable too. Billoo, Pinky (who incidentally had a comic called ‘Pinky’s Pussy’), and Agniputra Abhay. The last one about a man who had every power known to man and his friend Abhay – a man who had a talking motorcycle that he called ‘Princess’.

Yes, things were that bad.

The Experience of Reading Chacha Chaudhary

Fortunately or not, my mother had weird interpretations of the teachings of Sai Baba, whom we worshipped. She would listen to a discourse and infer that he was asking his followers not to wear jeans. In another, she inferred that comics were bad for children.

There was a blanket ban on comics. Those evil things that could encourage violence among children. Little did she know that it wouldn’t even encourage Garfield to pick it up and swat a spider with.

Comics were banned, and I could read nothing on the train. In those desperate times, I even contemplated getting a peek into ‘Wisdom’ magazines. I needed my fix, my next hit.

And then, peeping in from the darkness, came the ray of colour and shine.

Any guesses what they could be?

 

(To be continued)