I grew up in South India and back then, there were no smart/mobile phones. The internet was unheard of, and general households did not have computers. There was no such thing as cable T.V, and all we had to rely on for entertainment was Doordarshan, the national channel. My main sources of entertainment were going out to play with friends, pursuing my hobbies and reading a storybook.
During this phase, out of sheer boredom, one day I dared to glance through the pages of the large and unmanageable (for my age at that time) newspaper. I was delighted to discover a tiny comic strip titled “Scamp“. I fell in love with the cute little dog who had floppy ears. I pestered my mother for more comic books, and that’s how I discovered a treasure trove of cartoon characters from Walt Disney. Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Scrooge McDuck, Beagle Boys etc. Every time I read the comic book, I used to get transported into that imaginary world where all the characters came to life and played their part as per the story. I could easily forget my worries when I had a comic book in my hand.
One evening, my father came home from work with the day’s newspaper in his hands, and it seemed much bulkier than usual. When I unrolled the paper, a copy of ‘Tintin In Tibet’ rolled out. From that moment, my love for the famous comic series started.
Soon, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig all became part of my addiction. The more comics I read, the greater was my craving. I went on to read Richie Rich, Little Dot, Little Lotta and Casper. Even to this day, I cherish those wonderful and carefree days. As I read, I admired the creativity of the writers and illustrators who created these characters.
Looking at my interest in reading, my mother rented children’s magazines and comic books for me. That’s how I was able to read all the popular children’s magazines of the day, that were circulating in India. I read Champak, Chandamama, Balamitra and Tinkle. Every month, my sisters and I scrambled to get the latest copy and each of us wanted to read it first. Tinkle was our clear favourite. After all of us finished reading we recollected some of those jokes and laughed again and again.
Back then, magazines were popular and they thrived in the absence of cable television. Most of them published a few comic strips that I fondly followed. The Sunday newspapers carry a special page of comics, and I eagerly waited to read them. Tintin, Asterix, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Hagar the Horrible, Denis the Menace, Hi and Lois, Garfield, The Lockhorns, Calvin and Hobbes etc. were the order of the day.
One summer, I visited my uncle’s house and stayed there for a week. I was thrilled to discover that he had a treasure chest of comic books. No, I am not talking metaphorically. He had a large, old, metal trunk filled with comic books. I spent the entire week reading all the comics. I returned to my uncle’s house for the next few summers and spent a week there just to read the comics from his collection. He had a very large collection of Amar Chitra Katha comics, Panchatantra, Jataka tales, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, Archie, Tarzan, Spiderman, Superman and many more.
Today, many years later, I am lost in my world of work and deadlines. But, I see that my son is enjoying his journey in the world of comics. It’s a different set of characters that have taken over his world. Marvel and DC characters are colouring the imagination of young minds. If you are also a lover of comics then, tell me which comic characters are your favourite.