Childhood Heroes

Everyone needs a hero figure, someone to look up to. The heroes are supposed to inspire and trigger aspirations of those who read about them. Growing up in India my heroes were in the pages of Amar Chitra Katha and Chandamama. Both these publications were meant for the young readers, rich in pictures and high on tales of valor, wit and wisdom depending on who the historical protagonist happened to be in a particular story.

The pictures in Amar Chitra Katha were colorful and the accompanying words always seemed to add value and substance. The pictures were like music painting a colorful mosaic providing the context for the text which were like vocals describing the story and fully resonating with the readers keeping them engaged till the last page. The images in those books left a lasting impression. Seared into my memory are illustrations of how the rishis (the wise sages) looked. All the rishis sported luxuriant growth of mustache and free flowing beard with thick black hair tied into a bun at the top of the head. On one hand they would carry rosaries and on the other a kamandalu (oblong water container with a nice handle at the top for carrying it with ease). You better be quite hirsute to convince me you are a sage 😀 Creating those pictures by hand must have been a painstaking effort and I was always amazed at the consistent look achieved in those books.

Chandamama had less pictures compared to Amar Chitra Katha books, it had its own charm. Less pictures meant more reading material which is what one wants when younger, right? 🙂 The images that were there painted a picture of an idyllic India with abundance of greenery where learning was more one on one with the guru (teacher) and in communion with nature. The 2 regular features in Chandamama I remember are “Legends and parables of India” which featured allegorical tales and the other feature was “Tales of Vikramaditya”. Vikramditya was a wise king cursed with living in the forest for 6 months for every 6 months spent in his kingdom. The tales always had a picture of Vikramaditya carrying a ghost on his back who would ask the king very difficult questions. If the wise king answered correctly the ghost would be off his back, if answered wrong his head would explode into a zillion pieces and he would experience a very painful death.
Needless to say the wise king would always answer the questions correctly with wit, wisdom and a very thoughtful explanation leaving readers awaiting for the next edition for more of the good stuff. I need to read again the tales to see if the ghost is actually a metaphor for bad karma which carries over.

The creators of those stories and TV series like “Dora the Explorer”, “Spongebob Squarepants” etc deserve kudos for their ability to understand the needs of their audience and producing a very satisfying experience!
Teachers in elementary school deserve special praise too for understanding the needs of kids and moulding their learning experience.

These days my heroes often tend to be regular folks who perform heroic deeds in their own way!