In the eighties and nineties, there were no 24 hour cartoon channels plaguing the television. World wide web, mobile gaming and play stations were all a near impossible phenomenon.. Kids like me used to play. I mean really play requiring physical exertion. And we used to read comics.
During long summer vacations, comics were our source of entertainment to pass those idyllic afternoons; comics captured the imagination of an entire generation unlike today where being members of popular social network sites, sending scraps and even blogging are a standard norm.
We grew up on a staple diet of American comics like superman, hulk, richie rich and of course everybody's favourite, Tinkle. Just talk to anybody from my generation and they all will have some or the other story to narrate related to that wonderful comic. It was a comic where learning met fun. Tinkle was the brainchild of Anant Pai - scientist by education and a story teller by vocation. "Uncle Pai" as he is fondly called even today, gifted us a tool which was nothing short of a miracle for us as children.
Tinkle had its soul within Indian culture and folklore. It had amazing characters in funny short stories that had morals and fun. Tinkle was a comic with a lot of substance, packed with lot of colorful characters, each representing a slice of life. Who can forget characters like :
Suppandi - the incorrigible fool whose uncanny ability to get into trouble made him a favourite. He is an endearing and lovable fool who moves from one mishap to another changing masters by the dozen.
Shikari Shambhu - the dumb witted hunter who is anything but a "shikari". He is the only hunter who deserves to be encouraged by the Wildlife Conservation Society. This hunter relies heavily on luck and coincidence which makes him quite funny.
Kalia the crow - the supremely intelligent crow who is the nemesis of chamatka (fox) and doob doob (crocodile). with him around, nobody fears an attack from these two. (by the way, I always wondered if chamatka and doob doob were ever able to fill their stomachs with kalia always there)
Tantri the Mantri - this evil minister can put all our politicians to shame when it comes to grabbing the "kursi". His never ending plots to topple Raja hooja never succeed, but nevertheless he is a fun character sending out a message that evil never wins.
Other memorable characters were Raghu - a school boy with all the aversions associated with school, Anwar - a smart boy similar based on lines of Dennis the menace, Little Raji - similar to anwar, Ramu and Shamu - twins who always work out plots together to get out of trouble.
Apart from these stories, sections like "Tinkle tells you why" answered the most weird questions from children. Anu Club was like a educative club in school mixing science with everyday life. The magazine also encouraged children to write by putting up sections like "It happened to me" where children were encouraged to send in true life incidents. (I sent my experiences a couple of times too. it doesnt matter that they never got printed. Thats the reason i got myself a blog!!!!!) Quizes and crosswords completed this entire package lovingly devoured by children across every strata of the society.
Tinkle was an essential part of my growing up. As a child, I was a big sucker for this comic and no matter what I wanted my dose of it.
Today when I see our children hogging on an ample diet of cartoon network and pogo, I feel sorry for them. For they will never know the anticipation of waiting for a comic to arrive at their doorstep every fifteen days. But I guess comics like Tinkle aren't enough brain candy to compete with electronics. And that makes me wonder if I would have been any better had I'd been born two decades later. Well, thank God for small mercies and oh, thank you Uncle Pai.