While scrolling through my twitter timeline casually in the morning I read about the death of Pran Kumar Sharma, India’s popular cartoonist better known as the creator of Chacha Chaudhary. Soon there were obituaries; people remembering their comic reading days, their favourite Pran characters and comics. I couldn’t stop myself from revisiting the good old days of summer holidays spent reading the pile of comics, again and again.
I grew up in a small city where foreign comics like Archie, Hardy Boys, Marvel etc. hadn’t penetrated the market yet. We grew up on a steady dose of Diamond and Raj comics. More of former than latter because of the pure innocence of the characters and stories. Parag, Champak, Nandan, Samrat and Tinkle made for perfect children’s magazines.
It was an ideal summer holiday which started with buying a stash of Chacha Chaudhary, Billoo and Pinky comics or even better, renting them out from the local library. Even in my Nana-Nani’s village, where we’d go to spend a month, there was a shelf dedicated to our comics and books. I would read them repeatedly, year after year.
The comics that Pran wrote weren’t complicated. They didn’t include flying heroes or dark villians, except Raka. His characters had their traits and well defined ones; Sabu’s anger which made volcanos burst or Chacha Chaudhary’s mind which worked faster than computer. Pinky’s knack for notority was lovable and her neighbour Jhapatji’s frustration was real. The thieves always had black stripes on their faces and Bajrangi Pehelwan would always wear a checkered lungi.
The jokes were silly but I still loved them. The stories linear but kept me interested. It was all a part of my growing up years. And then, I grew up. Moved on to international comics, Calvin and Hobbs and Harry Potters. But a part of me still wanted to go back and read those comics. A part of me still wanted to know about Sabu’s family on Jupiter, see Billoo’s face behind those hair and whether Raka will finally die or not. I guess it’ll remain a mistry now. RIP Pran.