Farewell Uncle Pai !


It was with deep shock that I read about the death of Mr. Anant Pai aka Uncle Pai , few days back. He died on February 14, 2011 in a Mumbai hospital.  He was admitted there for the operation of his fractured leg but shortly before he was to undergo surgery, he suffered a fatal heart attack and died. He was 82-year-old at the time of his death.

He was the founder of India‘s most famous comic series ” Amar Chitra Katha “. Later on he also started a magazine for children ” Tinkle “. In mid-60s, when he was working with The Times of India, he was watching a television quiz and to his utter dismay and shock saw a child, who knew so many things about Greek history but didn’t know the name of the mother of Bhagwan Ram. Mr. Anant Pai decided to do something.

Amar Chitra Katha

Image via Wikipedia - Logo Amar Chitra Katha

In 1967 he conceptualized and along with some of his loyal illustrators , started publication of Amar Chitra Katha. First of the series was about Bhagwan Krishna. Initially all the books of Amar Chitra Katha series were published by India Book House. This world-famous series went on to sell 100 million copies of 440 titles in 20 Indian languages.

Later on in 1984 Uncle Pai launched ” Tinkle “. This magazine had so many comic characters of its own like ; Suppandi, Shikari Shambhu , Kalia the Crow and Tantri the Mantri. Suppandi and Kalia the Crow were my favourites. I was so impressed by the character of Suppandi , the lovable goof, that I coined a new word also. It was Patandi. A verb for the actions of Suppandi. Whatever Suppandi did was Patandi for me. I used it frequently whenever my siblings were up to some pranks. I still sometimes use it for the asinine acts of my kids.


Image via Wikipedia - Suppandi

I must admit here that Amar Chitra Katha had a lasting impression on me during my formative years. For history and mythology, apart from history books, Amar Chitra Katha , was the only authentic informative source that we had. In those pre-google days Uncle Pai became an encyclopedia for the kids.

He was basically a Kannadiga and got educated in Mumbai. He used to work in the book division of Times of India. The paper used to bring Indrajal Comics at that time. Famous characters of Indrajal Comics were Phantom and Mandrake the Magician. I was avid follower of both these comic series.

I am fortunate that I had privilege of meeting uncle Pai several time. Years ago in 1998 Star Plus was making a TV series on Amar Chitra Katha. Mr. Rohit Kaushik was assigned to direct ” SHAKUNTALA “ and Mr. Gaurab Pandey was assigned to direct ” RABINDRA NATH TAGORE “. I was writing scripts for both the series. I used to go to uncle Pai’s apartment in Shivalik building at Prabhadevi for consultations. He used to live with his wife Lalitha. Because of my knowledge of Sanskrit and Indian scriptures, he became very fond of me and in fact gifted me a novel written by him. Name of the novel is ” BEECH KI KADI “ , which he wrote under pseudonym of Parth. This novel is not available in the market and I am the proud owner of it, with his signature and small note. He used to come to the ESSEL studio , where we were shooting ” SHAKUNTALA ” . I spent many memorable evenings talking to him about his life, his work and his vision. I am happy that I wrote script for his ” SHAKUNTALA ” , and ” RABINDRA NATH TAGORE ” , which he liked and praised. His faith in me was so unflinching that when something went wrong with  ” SHAKUNTALA ” , he said, ” how did this happen when vidur was there? ”

It is sad and pathetic that he was not honoured by Indian government for his herculean contribution. In spite of being a pioneer, he was not honoured by the governments of all hue and colours. Towards the end of his illustrious career, he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award at a comic book conclave in New Delhi. Even after his death, clamour to confer the Padma Award fell to deaf ears.

Uncle Pai in His Office

It is sad, very sad. But people of two generations will always remember their uncle Pai with fondness and love.

Farewell uncle Pai ! You and your Amar Chitra Katha series are always AMAR [ immortal ]. This KATHA [ story ] will never end.

I consider myself extremely fortunate that I could meet you several times and could interact with a person of your caliber.







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