Sometime back I had finished reading tales of Tenali Raman and recently finished reading stories of Mullah Nasruddin. In many ways the tales are similar but in some unique ways Nasruddin in very different from Tenali Raman. Nasruddin is a trickster and a jester at the same time. He manages to outsmart everybody most of the time but there are times when he also ends up being a fool and that is the beauty of Nasruddin.
The oldest tales of Nasruddin have been found in book called “Saltukname” and according to this book Nasruddin was born in 13th century in Turkey. I am not sure whether all the tales that are attributed to him actually happened or were they present in the earliest book. It is quite possible that over time people have added their own version of new stories using Nasruddin as the central character.
In many of his stories his donkey is a constant companion. Sometimes making a fool of him, sometimes getting beaten up, sometimes getting sold and sometimes showing a camaraderie shown between two friends. Many of the stories end up giving you lessons of life and many of them or just interplay of words. When Nasruddin ends up making a fool of himself, you wonder whether he is the same person who outsmarts everybody all the time.
I guess whether it was Tenali Raman or Birbal or Mullah Nasruddin and probably there are many more in different cultures of the world, the stories were created to provide some fun and teaching at the same time. But we forget about the common sense that is portrayed in these stories.
I recently read about demise of Anant Pai who was the creator of “Amar Chitra Katha” comic book series and I was immediately reminded of my early school days when these comic books were craze amongst kids. We used to get these comic books as gifts for various contests in school and then we used to read them and exchange them with other kids to read as many stories as possible.
These were short comic books about Indian religion, mythology, history, folk-tales and culture. That was the era when TV was still not popular and TV-series like Ramayana and Mahabharata were still some years away. These books were a great source of learning, entertainment and education for kids in that age. We had read many of those stories before but they came alive through pictures in these books and since the content was kept short and to the point, it was more entertaining.
Of course the series became so popular that it started attracting criticism as well. Many people termed them as too simplistic or idealistic. Some people accused them of racialism and some kind of color discrimination. Some people also said that they were not authentic since their research was not broad-based. But I think a lot of this criticism was unjustified. There was a need to reach out to children through a simple medium that they could understand and make them learn about India’s past. Even if it painted an idealistic picture, it was much better than complete ignorance.
With the changing times, they have also changed. Now there is an online store for these stories.
I was trying to take my memories back to the time when I would have started reading books for fun and not for study. I am quite amazed at how many of them I am still able to remember. Today I am going to write about one such Comic series which I must have read in early 1980’s but it is still fresh in my memory. The comic series was “Chacha Chaudhary” by cartoonist Pran in Hindi. Later on it was also translated in many other languages. Chacha Chaudhary was a middle class intelligent old man loved by kids and adults. The famous line in the book was “Chacha Chaudhary Ka Dimaag Computer Se Bhi Tej Chalta Hai”, meaning Chacha’s brain is faster than computer. He was always helping people and taking up criminals and punishing them.
His main accomplice in all his exploits was a giant named “Sabu”. Sabu was a huge man from Jupiter and was a very faithful friend. Another great line was that “When Sabu is angry a volcano erupts on Jupiter”. The combination of Chacha and Sabu was perfect brain and muscle combination for taking on the bad people. They did not have guns or weapons. All they had was Chacha’s brain and Sabu’s strength. There were few other characters like Chacha’s wife and their dog Rocket but the most lovable were Chacha and Sabu.
As kids we used to look forward to new comic and a new story every time. The stories were simple and always ended with the victory of good over evil. Sometimes they won with intelligence, sometimes with strength and sometimes with luck. But reading those stories was always a fun. I think I must have read about the word computer first time in that book.
Next time, I go to a book store, I am going to try to look for this comic series once again. If you remember something about this series, please do share.