Comics. This world itself has some magical potency in it to tingle certain strange sensations inside me. No matter wherever I might be, and whatever I might be doing; hearing this word always gets my attention. The reason for that is just one- my connection with comics since my childhood has been an extremely deep and emotional one; something which goes beyond the realms of childhood fascination.
Over the last two decades I have had the pleasure of gorging through multifarious comics; ranging from Lotpot, Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Archies, Tinitin, Asterix et al. However, there was one particular comic and its characters that for some strange reasons attracted me the most. Chacha Chaudhary and his many friends occupy such a special place in the cupboards of my memory that it is virtually impossible to even think of forgetting them. And curiously, somehow or the other, there keeps coming instances in my life where I in some way repeatedly get connected to these friends of mine. Presently, I am going through one such phase again where all of a sudden I have had this increasing urge to dive into the world of Chacha Chaudhary and his friends. Hence, a few weeks back, I searched out a local shop that keeps these comics, happily brought a dozen of them and have been gorging on them ever since.
The reason for writing this post is a little different though, and not just to share my association with Chacha and his friends. The post comes from the fact that I had the privilege of interviewing the creator of the Chacha Chaudhary comics- Mr. Pran Kumar Sharma. But hold on, this is about the only thing I will divulge on the subject; for now that is.
I considered that since I have interviewed such a gigantic legend of Indian comics, it would perhaps be injustice on my part to merely present the interview in one post and get it done with. The interview with Pran ji is not just a story for me; it has unparalleled emotional significance. But more on the legend of Pran in the next post. I have hence concluded that it would be prudent to set up a base for that interview by first presenting my insights into some of the famous characters he created, and the effect of the world of Chacha Chaudhary and his many friends on my psyche.
Chacha Chaudhary: The wise-old man of our comics. His ‘brain works faster than a computer’ and he can solve the complex of cases ranging from terrorism, dacoity, varied mystery and many more. He is more than 50 years old, wears a red turban, carries a walking stick, is bald and thin, and yet is a superhero for the society in his own right. Goons fear him, police look up to him for help and children love him. You can be rest assured that no matter what problems you are facing, Chachaji would save the day in the end.
Sabu: The superman from Jupiter, Sabu is more than just a sidekick to Chachaji. This gigantic and muscular ‘alien’ is as Indian as one can be and is like a family to Chachaji. If Chacha is the brain, Sabu is the more than ideal brawn. His character is chiefly responsible for bashing up goons and dacoits with one swipe of his hand. And you better not make this guy angry because, “Jab Sabu ko gussa aata hai, tab kahi Jwalamukhi fatta hai”.
Bini Chaachi : Chachaji’s better half, Bini Chaachi might not be a prevalent figure in all the episodes of the series but she sure packs a punch; quite literally. She has an imposing figure and can take down the meanest of ruffians on her day. However, her primary role in the comics is to chide Chachaji for being jobless and provide ‘lassi’ for Sabu.
Rocket: This forever faithful companion is probably one of the simplest of dogs one can have as a pet. But for Chachaji, Rocket is family. He also plays crucial parts in solving out mysteries and taking on the bad guys. And like many of those unusual things in the series; Rocket is the only dog in the world who is a vegetarian.
Dag-Dag: Though he is just a vehicle, Dag-Dag too is a vital chrachter of the series. Despite the fact that his tyres are bandaged, window panes are damaged, and that he emits a lot of smoke, he remains another faithful friend to Chachaji in times of need. Oh, and by the way you can never steal or cheat him as he is ‘half-human’ and can think for himself.
Gobar Singh and Dhamaka Singh: Although the series has a wide array of bad guys up its sleeve, these two are the most consistent ones. Both desperately try to rid Chachaji from their path to make their criminal life easier, but unfortunately their plethora of schemes never succeed.
Billoo: This street-smart teenager doesn’t exactly feature in the Chacha Chaudhary comics, (except for a few episodes) but is connected to the same world. He loves cricket and always manages to infuriate his arch-nemesis ‘Bajrangi Pehelwan’. He is the representation of the average teenager of today.
Pinki: Another character who is related to the world of Chachaji but has her own standalone series to speak of. This fiver-year old ‘pocket dynamite’ is an incessant chatter-box, has a lot of friends and continuously gets on the nerves of her neighbour Jhapatji. She always gets others into trouble while walking away guilt-free. She also has a pet; a squirrel named ‘kut-kut’, who accompanies her in almost all of her (mis)adventures.
Raaka: The only serious character in this world, Raaka is a dangerously vicious criminal who is a great threat to the society. He kills for power and pleasure and the only ones who can stop his reign are of course Chachaji and Sabu. The unique thing about Raaka is that he is immortal, and is gigantic and muscular in size. This happened courtesy the elixir of life he drank, made by a doctor called Chakramacharya. Fortunately for the world though, he is always disposed off into some remote places like space, sea or volcanoes courtesy Chachaji and Sabu. One can be rest assured that he will return though. Always.
There are of course many more characters that Pran has created, but these are the few of them which I have connected most deeply with. Why am I so besotted with them has its own significance.
From a very early age, when I was perhaps 6-7, I had become obsessed with Chacha Chaudhary and its world. The simple drawings they had in their comic panels made me feel like visiting those very places and losing myself inside them. I remember waiting eagerly for every new title in the Chacha Chaudhary series once I got to know if it. The storyline of these comics would not be the greatest, but they had a simplistic charm about them that simply cannot be found in any other comic book. The funny names of the characters, the chaste Hindi dialogues, the total buffoonery in the stories and homely surroundings of their world, made me fall in love with them. I even had this strange habit of keeping these comics beside my pillow before I went to sleep. It was like having a protective friend around you; which made me feel safe. I almost felt like no matter what I was going through, somehow or the other Chachaji and Sabu would save the day.
As I grew up a bit, I started collecting all the ‘exclusive’ Chacha titles I had with me and kept them safely stacked in my personal 'library'. I took them out during the summer and Puja vacations and no matter how many times I might have read a particular comic, it would always be a special feeling to leaf through their pages with no worry in the world. Life indeed was blissful back then.
Those days however, I could not buy these comics directly from bookstalls. My only source of purchasing them was at the railway stations. The Wheelers and many more like them used to keep a fair bit of these comics and every time I would enter the Howrah station, my first instinct would be to look for a Wheelers stall. Before I boarded my train, my first mission would be to get hold of a bunch of Chacha comics. It would be nothing short of an achievement to acquire even a couple of good titles like Chacha Chaudhary – 10 or Chacha Chaudhary aur Raaka ka Inteqaam. Furthermore, the train journey in itself was a perfect setting to read through the adventures of Chachaji. I loved reading those in the dim light of the chugging train; it was (and still is) a fascinating experience in itself. At every station where the train would stop, I had the habit of peeking out of the window and look at the book stalls in the hope of getting hold of a new Chacha title.
Even now, whenever I visit a railway station, my eyes automatically starts searching for a Wheelers book stall. I go there and always leaf through a few pages of the new Chacha comics. The feeling is akin to saying hello to your old friends; like revisiting those golden days of your life!
Life has of course changed manifold now. But certain things will remain the same. My fondness for Chacha Chaudhary and his world is one of those things. I might not read them as ardently as I once used to; but the love for them still remains deep. Perhaps that is why, even today, sometimes I keep a Chacha Chaudhary comic book close to my pillow. In the hope that no matter what tough times I might be going through, maybe just maybe, Chachaji and Sabu would save the day yet again!!
It was like walking in a dream; a dream that I had visualized innumerable times since my childhood.
The store was dingy and had many book racks. I enquired with the shop-keeper about the thing I wanted and he directed me to the corner shelf of the shop. One look at the shelf and I knew I had entered a dream world. The shelf was replete with hundreds of titles of the comic series that I wanted. I was stunned. I was mesmerized. I had never seen so many of these comic books at one place. My heart pounded in excitement. I then noticed a little 6-7 year old boy sitting near the extreme end of the shelf; surrounded by many of these comics. I however did not have time to pay heed to him. My only concentration was devoted to this plethora of comics in front of me, and I thus started picking many of them one by one. I leafed through their pages, touched them, and inhaled the smell in them; wanting to drink in every moment of this. The people in the shop looked at me curiously; perhaps thinking what was an adult like me doing in a comics section. But I did not care. I was in heaven.
I finally selected a dozen of them, albeit with great difficulty, and proudly strutted towards the cash counter. The lady there looked at me with raised eyebrows. But I was in a different zone then; nothing could bother me. As she computed my bill, I looked back at the book-shelf one last time and my eyes then once again fell on the little boy at the corner. His head was bowed; deep in reading the comics safely placed on his lap. Something about the boy seemed odd; he looked uncannily familiar. His hair was oily and fell down to his forehead. He was lanky and had a ‘nazar ka tika’ etched on his temple. He then suddenly looked up. Our eyes met and I realized I was looking back at my reflection from 20 years back. Before I could react, the lady at the counter said, “You bill sir.” I had briefly forgotten that I was in the shop and then hurriedly paid my bill. As I safely put my prized collections in my bag, she kept looking at me with her raised eyebrow. It almost felt she was asking me a mental question, “For your young nephew these aren’t they?” I zipped my bag shut and smiled at her, before answering her mentally as well. “Nope…” I said and looked back at the young boy. He smiled and waved at me. I waved back at him and finished my sentence, “This one’s for my childhood.”
To be concluded
(To read the second and final part of this post click here.)
(To read the second and final part of this post click here.)