One of the biggest problems in growing up is that connect with your childhood becomes weaker with each passing day. It is like memories of each day settle over the memories of the day before. This, in process, marks old memories for deletion because like most things in life, even human mind is limited in capacity.
However, there are a few chapters in life which don’t give up and give in to the force called time. They are like those highlighted chapters in a book which you visit again and again till they leave a permanent mark in your mind. These are those moment which are etched in your mind forever. It could well be toys you played with as a kid, it may well be some friends or it may well be the bashing you for form your parents after disappearing from home without informing anyone. Or it could be something which kept you entertained and you desperately looked forward to it. Like, well comics?
Gentleman who created one of such indelible marks, Pran Kumar Sharma or Cartoonist Pran as we knew him, passed away today. A sad demise. He gave me one bunch of such strong memories.
How did I or most from my generation came to know him? Well, I belong to the generation which didn’t have to deal with pressure of social media – the twitters, the facebooks, the orkuts, the whatsapps of the world are invention of 2000s. I didn't even have to deal with the cable TV for large part of my childhood. All we had was DoorDarshan in the name of entertainment. Some may find DoorDarshan and entertainment oxymoron which explains a lot about the choices we had.
Oh yes. We had outdoor, an entity which kids of these days don’t even know what it means. But then, it wasn't possible to go outside and play during summer vacations when temperatures often threaten to complete half century. Inside home, either there was no power or no TV or nothing on TV in the name of entertainment.
This is when magazines like Nandan, Champak, Lotpot came to our rescue. While I was never patient enough to go through the text and read, what caught my eyes were the cartoons. That’s when I came across my favorite and first superhero of any kind – Chacha Chowdhary.
Character of Chacha Chowdhary was perfect for kids – an elderly gentleman who could break a bone or two of goons when needed, who possessed mind sharper than computers, who was always well dressed and had a mustache which gave him a royal look. He had a sense of humor. He had wit. If he lacked any qualities, it was maybe a physique which could intimidate – something which was complemented by another character – Sabu. Oh yes, these two made up for the qualities any kid dreams of at that age – he/she wants to be sharp and powerful. Chacha Chowdhary was sharper than computers. Sabu had power.
It weren't just the stories in the comics, it were some anecdotes too which found way in my day to day life.
For example Chacha Chowdhary ka dimag computer se bhi tej chalta hai (Chacha Chowdhary’s mind is sharper than a computer). Although it’s a different matter that I didn't really know what a computer was – for me it was a machine which was intelligent enough to be compared with Chacha Chowdhary’s mind.
Chacha Chowdhary ki naak mein jab khujali hoti hai to iska matlab hai khatra (Itching in Chacha Chowdhary’s nose means danger). For quite a few years, I actually became a bit wary as soon as there was any feeling of itching in my nose.
Sabu Jupiter se aaya hai (Sabu has come from Jupiter) or Sabu ghade mein chai peeta hai (Sabu drinks tea in clay pot) or Jab Sabu ko gussa aata hai, Kahin Jwalamukhi fat-ta hai (Whenever Sabu gets angry, somewhere a volcano erupts). One of my relatives told me that Sabu was his neighbor. It took quite a lot of efforts for my parents to make me understand that my relative was joking – I so very much wanted to meet Sabu. Being a kid with a fragile frame, I wanted a friend as powerful as Sabu to do something I couldn't do – bully others.
Soon I was introduced to Billu – a kid who every one of my age could assimilate with. Billu was everything we were – mischievous, lazy, running away from studies. What made us like about him - in the end he always came out of trouble unscathed. If I thought I was quite like Billu, I wanted to be exactly like him. Not sure if analogy makes sense but he was Nobita of my generation sans Doraemon.
Then there was Pinky, the female version of Billu.
While Pran tried to catch attention of kids by these characters, his character Raman caught eyes of adults as well. Raman was a typical common man busy with his monotonous daily life. Jokes on his life made even my senior generation chuckle – they could assimilate with him.
Soon, other characters started emerging – not just from Diamond Comics (Pran was part of this) but other publishing houses as well – Manoj Comics and Raj Comics come to mind.
I never liked characters of Manoj Comics but Raj Comics did interest me a lot.
Bankelal was a perennial villain always turned into a hero in comical circumstance. The reason was the curse he bore – whenever he tried doing bad, it automatically turned into good.
Nagraj wasn't really a favorite because of snakes – I find them scary and cannot stand them at all.
Fighter Toads, as I have come to know of it only recently, were copied from Ninja Turtles. However, the characters of Computerr, Cutterr, Shoterrr and Masterr were funny.
Then there was Doga – Suraj, an orphan, was raised by some good Samaritans. In day time, he boxed with people in boxing ring. He put on a mask to box the evil out at night.
Among all these heroes, if there is one hero who stood out and could compete with the characters created by Pran in terms of being a favorite, it was Super Commando Dhruv. Through him, first time I came know that if you want to become a superhero, you must change the way your dress up below the belt. That’s one reason I never tried being one. Popularity that Super Commando Dhruv gained found its genesis in tried and tested trick – sympathy. A kid orphaned in a circus grows up to become a street hawk. Soon, his sister Chandika also joins the brigade.
Some of the comics in Super Commando Dhruv series had awesome stories. Mujhe Maut Chhahiye is my favorite. In this story, a man cursed with long life comes to Dhruv hoping he would kill him. Dhruv, being the hero, does everything to save his life in every possible way. He even puts his own life in danger. However it is the end when the old man realizes the crucial part of the curse – he would get his desired freedom from life as soon as he does a selfless act. Mujhe Maut Chhahiye was a classic.
Soon I had moved on from Pran’s characters to new age heroes. However, they couldn't hold my attention for as long a span as Pran’s characters had done. New age comics had started becoming a bit too violent – some of them bordered along the category of being gore. I didn't like it.
Oh yes, I was growing up too. Board Exams, Cable TV, dream of becoming Sachin Tendulkar had distracted me away from comics. Soon I moved out of this phase.
This morning, the news about Pran’s demise made me nostalgic. With him, another link to my childhood has died. Like it did in November last year when Sachin retired.
Maybe it is time to let the childhood memories fade away. Maybe this is how it’s meant to be.
Maybe this. Maybe that.
Yet the characters of Pran, like videos of Sachin’s innings or songs of 90s, and the anecdotes will keep that child in me alive, always. Because the day that child in me dies, I shall be dead too.
For the moment, all I can say – RIP sir. Thanks a lot for wonderful memories.