Thursday, May 2, 2013

remembering comics of my childhood

Now it's May of 2013 and the chills of the Toronto spring are behind while warm summer days have begun.
Now even though it is  decades since I left my childhood behind, every summer,  memories of reading comics and books and mags after final exams during childhood summer holidays resurface....followed by   a sudden rush of  nostalgia & desire to read those very same comics, books & mags!

And ever since I discovered newly republished hard-cover book reprints of my favorite American and British comic strips....such as Modesty Blaise, Andy Capp & Phantom which had appeared in newspapers during my childhood, I am wishing that the Indian comics I grew up with, will be reprinted in a similar manner! The four action Indian comics of my childhood are Daboo, Shuja, Bahadur and Azad. There was also a funny comic called Majnoo a  lovelorn  character. These comics appeared in Sudha, a Kannada magazine.
I should add here that my husband read the James Bond comic which appeared in Indian newspapers(Deccan Herald maybe?) as a teen and he recently bought a hardbound copy of some of the James Bond comic-strip stories(Titan books, soft-bound) as he loved the art work of Yaroslav Horak.

I also recall a few  very very dog-eared but precious 'foreign' comics owned by random friends who reluctantly loaned them when I grovelled ...these are the Richi Rich, Little Lotta, Dot, Casper the friendly ghost comics. I am not sure if Indian kids read them today but I read the few I could get my hands on..over and over again! I had to turn the fragile pages, slowly and carefully! The only glossy, colourful, bright and 'strong' pages were the cover and back sheets. The back sheets had ads which I read and rearead and fantasized. I think the ad said that if you sell a certain number of boxes of ? I am not sure what, you could get one of several things such as binoculars, fishing line, etc. I have daydreamed endlessly about getting those things ! In those days(70s) middleclass Bangaloreans had no access to things such as the binoculars, etc and I would simply drool looking at those tiny pictures of the things we could get if we sell the boxes! If one recalls the shops of Bangalore, there was nothing sold except for food, clothes and a few other things like ironboxes and watches. The number of toys for kids was limited(except maybe in Sapphire in Brigade road but my parents never ever went to Brigade road or anywhere else to shop for toys!). The number of things for adults too was pretty limited in those days.


I discovered the entire series of Chandamama(English)  online...all of the issues & all of the pages.... including the advertisement pages! So I am hoping someone will reprint these four comics! Reading others blogs online, I saw that I am not the only fan pining for these old comics! There are many people who are wanting and I am  sure there will be enough of a demand to make reprinting profitable.

Another thing I wish is for the collection and reprinting of the wonderful short stories which appeared in the Illustrated Weekly of India and Debonair. The stories were very well written and I loved the accompanying illustrations too. It is so sad that I cannot remember the names of the authors except for R.K Narayan, Kushwant Singh and Ruskin Bond. I remember these names  as their names crop up all the time in the news....
Narayan's Painter of signs came in instalments in the illustrated weekly; I remember  Ruskin Bond's short story set in Simla being  published once in the Illustrated weekly of India and I think  Kushwant's novella sort of story  set in Pakistan also came in instalments. I loved a lot of other short stories too and sad to say, I cannot remember even one writer's name. The illustrations for Kushwant's story seemed to be in M.F.Hussain's style but I may be mistaken. I remember one illustrator's name as I liked his artwork! He was Kavadi. His illustrations were expressive, colourful and sort of fleshy! I loved R.K.Laxman's illustrations of his brother's short stories. Which reminds me, I loved Mario Miranda's cartoons which came in the weekly in the jokes page.

I had cut and got bound at a printing shop the comics of Illustrated weekly but have lost the bound books  now! I bitterly regret that! The Beetle Bailey comics were in colour in the illustrated weekly and you cannot get it in colour anywhere now! I also got bound the jokes pages but I dont think it was such a good idea as I cannot read jokes continually. I selected with great difficulty my favorite short stories from weekly and got it bound but I wonder if it is still there in my dad's garage or my mother who is sick and tired of cleaning the garage has thrown it! Anyway, these books are too huge and heavy to lug it all the way to Canada(The weekly was a largish magazine)
I forgot to add but I read the ubiquitous Tin Tin  and Asterix comics in my childhood. I enjoyed these too and loved the art work in both.

I enjoyed the stories in Femina of the 70s. I was highly critical of, but read anyway, the stories in Women's era! Even a moderate feminist would go berserk, reading the stories in women's era! The heroines in these stories were the Sati Savitri types....I can write more, but what is the point of writing about ancient tripe?

As a teen, I did not read the stories but enjoyed the artwork accompanying the stories (daravahis) in the Kannada mags i.e. Prajamata, Sudha, Tushara, Kasturi, etc. I now recall how good the artwork was and I  wonder if the artists were   paid  amounts commesurate with their talent.
 I guess newspaper  illustrators such as Norman Rockwell  in richer countries  and illustrators in national newspapers in India get paid well ; But I do  wonder if the  illustrators for  Kannada mags and newspapers are equally well paid!  I know that Norman Rockwell's originals are sold for huge amounts, even today.
I wonder what is happening to the original art work which apperared in Kannada mags in the past.......Is it with the newspaper or the artist? I  am rambling and I am sorry!

One more thing I would like to add here.....I would go into a trance like state when I saw some of the photos, artwork and illustrations. I cannot describe what a wonderful world I would enter when I was sitting in the 'studyroom', full of old mags and flipping through the pages! Fortunately for me, my dad was/is a hoarder and never sold the old mags. I would sit, cross-legged on the floor, with the mags stacked in shelves, taking down one stack at a time and flipping through the pages...It was the closest to heaven, one can come to, on Earth! I would reread favorite stories. I would gaze at the photos ...I loved some of the dresses in Femina, I loved the houses shown to illustrate decoration ideas...such as old brass utensils tastefully arranged in the living room ! I loved some ads...I remember Karan Kapoor, I think he is Shashi Kapoor's son in ? Bombay Dyeing ads! He was so handsome! I would see these pictures over and over again , for several years! These old mags and books are equivalent to drugs to me! I can get lost in this world. If I was less of a dreamer, I would have used the time to do something more useful than flipping old magazines and gazing at the pages I think!

It was sheer heaven...NO school as it is summer holidays. As soon as I finished bath and breakfast, I would sit in this room, going through these books and mags. They were  Enid Blyton books, Nancy Drew and so on. The street was silent and the only sound was the birds outside and maybe a vegetable seller on the streets on his cycle,  calling out his wares.  Sometimes I went outside with the book and sat in the shade of the guava tree and read until it was too hot or  I felt sleepy and came back in. I would read for a while, day-dream for a while,  look for guavas & papayas in the trees or peep into the tailor bird's nest to check for eggs or chicks. Every year, the tailor bird built a nest by stitching two leaves of the brinjal plant in my house! The poor bird would panic  and scream when I peeped into it's nest but I never touched it. I would daydream about whatever I was reading. Daydream about finding hidden treasure myself. Daydream about having adventures. Fantasize about whatever movie I had recently seen... in the 70s, I would see about one movie a month, mostly Kannada. and then until I see the next move which may be a month later, I would play the move in my head in my spare time and fantasize!

Another favorite childhood mag of mine I forgot to mention till now is the ReadersDigest! I loved them...the short stories and the jokes at the end of each article in the little bit of space left at the end of the page. I loved the fantastic paintings on the covers ...I loved the cover page of the ReadersDigest of the 70s and earlier period. After the 70s, I did not like the covers at all...they were photos instead of art and not to my liking. I stopped liking the stories too.  I bought a great deal of the old RDs...published from the time before I was born. And guess where I bought them? From the guy selling 'Kadlepuri' or 'Kadlekai' on the streets of Majestic! That guy made me pay almost one rupee per copy which to me was a lot in those days. I got many 50s and 60s era RDs from these guys...and saved the books from being torn to wrap kadlepuri for the Bangaloreans! I cannot tell how much I loved a story called ? Child of my heart which came in the book section of one RD issue! It was so moving, I cried each and every time I read it. It was about a difficult teenage school boy who seems to have a crush on his young teacher. I can go on and on telling why I loved the RD but I will shut up now.

What else do I remember from my childhood summer holidays?  I have already mentioned elsewhere about the excited/anxious/feverish wait for the newspaper guy in the morning(once or twice a month) when the Indrajal comic was expected! And it was always late and the guy would keep telling, "the comic will come tomorrow" and the wait would drive me into a frenzy!

What I did not like about my childhood was my dad yelling at me and trying to get us to read the Kannada novels by writes like Byrappa's, Kuvempu's, Shivram Karant and Triveni's or the Hindi books of Premchand, etc.

I do not want to talk about the Amar Chitra Katha which are available even now..hard-bound, I might add.

Oh. One more thing. I love, love, love the English text books from England, which were sold on the pavements of Malleshwaram (in the 70s) by the guys selling used books. I loved their smell, the illustrations (some were grey and white like a black & white photo taken on a moon-lit night)and of course I loved the stories and poems! One was called Tales that letters tell...I got three of them, book one, two and five maybe. They will last forever as they are hardbound and the pages are smooth and glossy! I have bought other English school texts from England, but cant recall the names. Here is a picture of the cover of a book I loved in childhood(photo from ebay)



I loved my middle school English texts and they were the only school books I would read during the holidays. I loved the "English by Stages"(printed in UK), the Radiant Readers (good quality glossy smooth pages but printed in India I think) and one more..I cant recall now. I loved the non-detailed texts more than the detailed texts of course. One more thing I loved in the English text books of mine was the wonderful woodcut artwork. They were small but so exquisite! (Especially woodcut works in a poetry text). Now I do not see woodcut work in text books or anywhere for that matter. It is such a shame! The woodcut work in the E.F.Dodd abridged James Hilton's novel, The Lost Horizon" (Macmillan publications, India) is unforgettable. I never expressed to my classmates or anyone else, how much I loved the artwork but I remember them even now, three decades later!
To me,  abridged versions of  several classics were more loved and more readable  than the unabridged originals. A tale of two cities is another abridged classic I read several times and I am sure I would never have read the original more than once. Robinson Crusoe and Kidnapped were wonderful abridged classics, a great deal more attractive to me than the original-unabridged ones.
 I loved all the  non-detailed texts and all were Macmillan India publications and I loved the art work in all of them; I think the art work was  woodcuts. If my memory is correct, all of these books were either written or rewritten or abridged by a person called E.F.Dodd and I loved all of his  books in those days. Some titles I remember now, almost 30 years later are: Brave children of other lands or Brave children of foreign lands;
Children of India  
Happy Beggars and other stories(frankly, I did not remember this but googled mcmillan publications and recognized it!)
Lalitha and her garden
 Rama & Sita
Adventures of Lila and Chandra
Discoveries of New Lands
Heros of North Lands(Which I mistakenly recalled as Norse mythology)The King's sculptor(I loved this book and lost it and never got it again...looking at it on Macmillan website, it seems to be republished now), Stories from famous poems
The rose and the ring
Sleeping beauty.
I see the book, Snake charmer and other stories on the Macmillan website but I cannot swear that I had that book as a text in childhood. It sounds familiar but....the cover page looks unfamiliar.
I recall a non-detailed text we had in school(or was it college?)called The red sea treasure.(by G.F.Wear?) I really enjoyed the book as it was an adventure story set in Egypt(I think!). I think this is the first ever book I read about drugs and it was a bit too adult for me I think. I cannot imagine drugs and near murders being depicted in a children's text book!
I had Lorna Doone in PUC as a non-detailed text but I don't think this was Macmillan publications.
Though I did get these titles from the website, I still remember many of the stories from each of the books! I have difficulty remembering what I did yesterday but I remember several of the stories of these lovely books! I bought as many of these as I found for my nieces but I doubt if these books are as interesting to my nieces as they were to me...I feel sad that the new generations don't love the books which I did! But that is the sad truth.

I am not generally into poetry but I did enjoy reading poems in my childhood and teens---even if those poems were only ones in my school textbooks. During my 2016 visit to India I did find my 5th standard poetry book, whose poems and illustrations I loved. It is 'Adventures into poetry for primary schools' (selected and arranged by Mary Daunt). It is published by Macmillan & Co in New York 1967and I am one of the few lucky students who studied in a school which had 'foreign' English in those days!(I also hated the school for  reasons such as teachers' brutality)

I will be adding more here as I recall! Adieu!






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Namrat Gaonkar said...

Hello Cardigan Kannadiga!!
Just read your views and it perfectly gells with my childhood folktale heroes like Insp.Azad,Daboo,Majnoo and of course- Shuja written by Abid Surti. I too have tried to locate whether these are available on the net but alas! no one remembers those soo1 good days.Though I am a kannadiga but having grought up in Mumbai I could not read Kannada but my mother used to read out the stories from -Sudha Magazine which used to come weekly to our house.You just made my day by reminding me of those cherished moments when we used to read so much rather than this techmilogy driven artificial world!! Thanks !!
Best regards
Namrat Gaonkar
namrat1966@rediffmail.com

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your kind comment, Namrat.
Regards
Cardigan.Kannadiga