The Day I picked up a Quarrel with Amar Chitra Katha by Nalinaksha Mutsuddi SignUp
The Day I picked up a Quarrel with Amar
Chitra Katha
Nalinaksha Mutsuddi Bookmark and Share


The creator of Amar Chitra Katha, Anant Pai passed away recently at the age of 81. He will be remembered for publishing the most popular comic series, illustrated with cartoons, retelling the Indian mythological stories, classics, folk tales and prominent biographies. He was fondly known to the children as Uncle Pie.


As a father of growing children, I used to purchase many of his comic books including the magazine “Tinkle”. I, too, used to read them with delight and benefit. It taught me many things about our culture and civilization, which I was not exposed to, earlier.


But, there was one book – out of the limited stock I had -- which blew my gasket off. It was about Kalidas, the legendary author of   epic poems like Meghaduta, Raghuvamsa and plays like Abhijnanasakuntalam etc and many others.


There are many varying legends attributed to Kalidas. One story relates how he happens to marry a beautiful and learned princess and gets humiliated by her. As the story goes the princess proclaimed she would marry only the one who could outdo her in a debate displaying his knowledge and understanding of philosophy.


 Many great scholars came and went by without winning her. One rejected and vengeful suitor resolved to get her married, somehow, to a fool. He was searching for an opportunity. Soon he spotted a young man cutting the branch, of a tree, on which he was perched, unaware of the danger of his own fall. He thought this blockhead would be the right candidate for the princess.


The dimwit was Kalidas. The rejected suitor – a Pundit -- taught him to utter only one Sanskrit sloka when confronted by the princess and do nothing else. And, the rest would be looked after by him. Kalidas mangled the sutra badly and blabbered some indistinguishable sounds, instead.  Flabbergasted, the princess was about to leave the stage. The Pundit came to Kalidas’s rescue and explained every odd sound, assigning deep philosophical meaning to each utterance.   And the princess was amazed by the vastness of his knowledge and married Kalidas. But, soon Kalidas was found out to be a downright moron and the princess shunned him for ever.


Thus disgraced, Kalidas began worshipping Goddess Kali. Being pleased by his devotion, the goddess granted him a boon making him a learned man capable of composing memorable classics. At this point, as I was reading out the story to my children, my temper flared up against Amar Chitra Katha and I told them not to believe such cock-and-bull stories of getting a boon by worshipping any god or goddess and thereby attaining greatness. Instead, they should believe that he might have worked hard to gather knowledge and became famous.


Furious for teaching wrong lessons to the children, I shot a letter to ACK, but, didn’t get any reply for unknown reason. Next best course for me was to visit the ongoing International Book Fair in Delhi. From Sundedrnagar, in Himachal Pradesh, I weathered 12 hours of arduous bus journey to reach Delhi. In the book fair I scouted out the stall and jumped on the only staff manning the booth. “What the heck you are teaching to the young minds” and so on. The man got stunned by the outburst of my fury and opened his mouth only when I got exhausted. “Sir, I am only a servant, not the author or publisher” and pleaded meekly to be spared.


Now, you can realize what a foolish father I was. I believe, out of thousands of copies sold and read none found fault with the trivial (?) statement as I did. Nobody thought it was sending a wrong signal to the budding minds. I was a greater fool than young Kalidas, and still, I am.


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