A tribute to Amar Chitra Katha Creator Anant Pai
A few days ago, the world experienced a sad loss – a legend who had touched millions of young lives, sparked their imagination, entered our homes and entertained, educated and enriched us and will continue to for generations to come, passed away. He was a man whose creation touches and inspires my 4 year old, and which will forever be among the favorite collections of many a child who is introduced to the enchanting world of Amar Chitra Katha.
We lost Shri Anant Pai, lovingly known as Uncle Pai, the man and legend behind Amar Chitra Katha on Feb 24 2011.
It’s not everyday that you associate comic books with education, rich vocabulary or early literacy. And not just anyone can pull off what this man and his comic book series managed to. If someone had said that comic books had the potential to rekindle interest in an ancient culture, its history, mythology and more, few would have believed it. Some would have scoffed at the idea. Or ignored it. And yet, book after book, page after vivid page, tale after fascinating tale – that’s exactly what Amar Chitra Katha comics manage to do. Uncle Pai believed that a child who was proud of his heritage and roots would grow up to be a confident citizen. ” A tree is only as strong as its roots,” was his strong belief and it is this vision that we see woven into every ACK book.
From the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata to the more intricate stories that they’re made up of, from the enthralling tales of the Dashavataras and stories of Shiva, Hanuman, Krishna to those of Indian freedom fighters, rulers and spiritual leaders such as Swami Vivekananda and Emperor Ashoka – Amar Chitra Katha spans the gamut of stalwarts, heroes and legends who shaped the country and the culture of its people.
To anyone new to Indian culture, heritage or history, a crash course will not be complete without including Amar Chitra Katha as required reading. For children, as young as 2, the books provide a stimulating introduction to India’s vibrant mythology. ACK comics are the easiest way to coax older, reluctant readers towards print.
As children, my brother and I devoured the comics come Sunday afternoons or summer vacations. They kept us company on 3-day long cross country train rides. I remember packing them up, tattered as they were, into an old trunk and hoisting it up into the attic just before my brother left home for college. Years of reading and re-reading hadn’t diluted our interest in them. Not for a moment did we contemplate discarding the priceless comics. The vivid illustrations and captivating dialogues continued to fascinate and enthrall us long after we had ‘outgrown’ them.
Any parent will tell you that there’s not much that will hold the attention of a pre-schooler for more than 30 minutes, unless a moving screen is involved. Today, as I watch my 4 ½ year old daughter turn the pages of an Amar Chitra Katha, deeply engrossed in the story, oblivious to happenings around her – I find myself thanking Mr. Pai for his wonderful gift and legacy. For when you see your child walking past the TV to reach for one of her Amar Chitra Katha comics to keep herself engaged for the next half hour or so, you know there’s something right about it.
Thank you, Amar Chitra Katha. Thank you, Shri Anant Pai. Your legacy lives on in the curious minds and eager hands of children around the world.