Monday, February 28, 2011

Anant Pai

Several months ago I had written of Mr Anant Pai, a man I had never met but whose work has had a profound influence on my thoughts, my love, respect and devotion for this land, my respect for those who laid down their lives for this country. Boring history lessons would have never made me realize the quantum of work by Bhagat Singh, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Savarkar or of the Tatas and Birlas, of scientists and finally that which I love the most - stories from the Puranas, Upanishads, Jatakas, Mahabharata, Hitopadesha, Ramayana, folk tales and faiths of the world. A man whose team and illustrations and language gave me a command over English far beyond my age when I was very young. Comics which told me faith could move mountains. That God hears our pleas. That all are equal in the eyes of God. In Tales of Yudhishtra, Lord Yama in disguise questions Yudhishtra if a Brahman is made by conduct or learning. Yudhishtra's reply that a Brahman becomes one only by conduct and not by birth was imprinted in my mind. 

The practices at home, the way my grandfather and mom led by example further established these stories and they became a way of life. So many times have I heard my mother say that it is hard to come across a true Brahman today. Only he, she used to say, that walks in the path to know Brahman, the Omnipresent, Omnipotent and the In-dweller of all beings, the Supreme, is the Brahmana. Brahma-charya. To walk in the path of knowing the Brahman. If we had to follow the varnasrama, being classified by what we do in our professions in today's world, we would all be known by different names. When we sit down to watch our thoughts and what we think about, everyone would probably have to wait for a thought on high ideals to come by. Maybe for a long time. Forget meditating on God. We mostly meditate on the idiotic driver on the road or how we got irritated or countless other things. That's the way we all are and that has become the rumdrum now. 

Over the years over and over have I read these comics. I used to have a 100 titles initially, a lot of which are out of print. Out of the initial 100, I have only 30 left. The others were borrowed and never returned. But I built the collection again, scour the website every once in a while and I see they are systematically bringing out titles that were out of print, one by one. And now I have over 300 though at various points in time I have read all their titles. I ll have to wait for the others to be printed and complete my collection. I remember the feeling of blood rushing through my veins as if I were witnessing the Independence struggle myself. Or suddenly praying to Krishna or Vitthal with all my heart after reading the ACK of Kanakadas or Jagannath of Puri. 

Of kings and queens, tyrants and benevolent men, Gods and Goddesses, Saints and Reformers, Thinkers and Industrialists, Freedom fighters and silent revolutionaries. How easily they communicated some of the most complex ideologies so that it could be understood by a child of 8 in those blurbs. And how easily the comics reveal more and more meaning at every read even to an adult.

Legend has it that Anant Pai began ACK when he saw that children could answer questions on Greek mythology during a quiz but did not know who Sita or Rama were. Or maybe the question was who was the father of Rama. And in the ACK titles he went back to the very origin of origins and where it all started. The Gita. The Mahabharata. The Ramayana. Jesus Christ. Zarathrushtra. Mahavira. The various Sikh Gurus. And how in breaking ancient wisdom to speak the language that can be understood even by young child, I knew from then that God is one. But then as I grew the world wanted to teach me different things. Of divisions and castes and creeds. What the ACK team could do in 40 pages or less most exponential books could not. How he taught so many Sanskrit words and simultaneously taught us the meaning of those. Mantradrashta - the seer of the mantra from Shunahshepa as he was referred to by learned sages of that age in the ACK Title of the same name. This title is currently out of print. But should be available at libraries, if someone hasn't already stolen them. :p

As said by Mr Narayanamurthy in his book A Better India, A better world, we seem to be a country where reservation is not on the basis of merit but caste. Someone on Twitter said the other day that no country can prosper by discriminating against its people. And to this day the caste card is played even amongst the educated masses and we fall prey again and again. The light of education does not reach so many sections of the society. While many starve, the immediate thought is to fill this stomach. Who cares about education?

Thinkers like Narayanamurthy ask us to give back to the society. India, once known for its charity is now bereft of charitable people and philanthropists. Perhaps we have given up. Given up on the system, whatever is left of it or the lack of it. Everyone would rather run away from this country and come back when they have children, so that they can grow up in this 'culture'. A lot of others prefer not to do that as well. 

Today we realize more that there is no freedom of speech in this country which is a fundamental right for the citizen of India. So we dare not opine and keep quiet. Even if children do, they are promptly asked to shut up. Informed of dire consequences. And the more I talk to people and the more I listen, the more I keep my eyes open, it all looks as if there seems to be a greater force which seems to benefit if we all decided to be divided on the various reasons given to us. History is refreshed and hate is bred  anew. Suddenly blood will boil and people would be urged to take revenge on ancestors who would have long known the truth that we are all one. We come from the same source and go back to the source. But in between the entire tamasha happens. And we the educated, shall keep quiet. Not even dare to think and even pray that good shall happen to our people. We, however, are trained to say that this country will go to the dogs. Or indha naadu uruppadavae uruppadaadhu. And translations of it in the hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in India. 

I know my limitations as a human being and also know of my strength. Everyday I send out a prayer to the Gods of the Universe, with no name or form, to help my country and its people. To help the people of this earth. If you, the reader, is sniggering here, please go ahead and may you be happy if that brings you the joy. 

But in the words of Anant Pai and all the characters that have spoken to me through his ACK, God does listen and God does answer prayers. And I know there are countless praying similarly in various tongues for the same thing in various parts of the world. And in knowing my limitations and my strength as a single human being I pray to that one God asking for deliverance and a better future for the children. God could turn his back on Brahman priests and turn to face his devotee Kanakadasa at Udupi who was lamenting the fate of not being allowed to see him, at the back of the temple. Now we all have to see the Lord through the very same window. Of Lord Ranganatha refusing to open the doors because a Brahman priest had assaulted the "untouchable" of Tiruppan. And unless the priest carried Tiruppan around the temple and brought him to the Lord he wouldn't open them. Or of the divine trance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Or the divine love of Mirabai. How God helped the ones that loved him with all their heart and came to them in the form that they wanted to see him the most.

Anant Pai passed on a couple of days back. But his work is Amar. Immortal. 

I wish I could have touched your feet Sri Pai. But it was not to be. I send my salutations to you. You awoke an entire generation from the slumber of ignorance of its cultural ethos. The light shines bright. And it shall continue to. 

Rest in Peace.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful Post.

Avinash said...

Great men. let his soul rest in peace, His ideologies wake everyone

Anusha said...

Couldn't agree with you more. I grew up reading tinkle and various other titles of his and am continuing to do so. I attribute my command over English to this great man too. ACK is simply ageless and caters to all of mankind irrespective of whether they are kids or adults. I recently acquired titles on various sages and saints like RamanaMaharishi, Sri Sankaracharya and many more and devoured each and everyone of them. I would blindly suggest ACK titles to anyone any day to know our roots and learn a lot of values. Anant Pai is a man who personifies the Indian ethnicity to me and may his soul rest in peace.

Aakarsh said...

Wonderful post.

The reason why caste card continues to play out is that education has become synonymous to degrees and medals. The real education lies in character, fine sentiments and progressive outlook. We Indians think that we are emerging, while the truth is that even highly educated people play caste card everywhere. Forget people, when our constitution, while trumpeting "Equality" cannot do anything about the removing the "Religion" column in government/non-government applications and forms.We are a country of paradoxes.

Coming to Anant Pai, he did greater service to more than 1 generation, than any of the politicians or moral police. He did his bit in 'educating' us, in truest sense. And India did not recognize his contribution.Like I read somewhere, he doesnt even have a Padmasri. But who cares, he won the hearts of thousands... which is more than any Padma award.

anubharat said...

My first time commenting here. You have a very nice blog and this is a wonderful post. Got to know more about ACK here. I have read my share of Tinkles and Panchatantra tales and Kalia the crow stories. Wish there were also online versions of ACK which I would like to buy and read them again and again

Chitra Devi Nagayah said...

Amazing ... may his soul rest in peace

Anonymous said...

Amazing post chinmayi,

Truely well said, i dont know wht's the role of caste in education system, nd y it need? the criteria of education r selection should b in merit not by cast, still our education system is in dark path, thats fully because of govt., max education is now under private nd max tasmac is under govt., then how country will improve may be the logic is govt. teaching (india kudimagangal) by this way r what?!!! defnetly god has to help our country, v need another avatar, now even mistake in public also every individuals, they r truly following history but no one is ready to creat a history even young, at same they dont want to follow culture but they ready to creat a new culture by borrowing from other countries, wost logic,
u true everyone praying similarly wht u said, really our country needs god help, (ellarum samam no jadi no madam) atlest next generation as to follow this.....

Anant pai great man, Uncle Pai has done a yeoman service to this country. Government should award Bharat Ratna to him. This man truly deserves it......

EsKay said...

Great people find satisfaction in their duties. No awards can justify their achievements. There are so many people like Anant Pai lived in this country and carried the tasks without looking anything in return for themselves. Their souls are blessed.

Casteism cannot be ridden off from this country in foreseeable future. Only a great leader with greatest of visions can initiate a change in people's mind. It will take more than one generation to sustain the change. Near impossible. Accepting the facts is not being pessimistic. We need to find a way around to live with castes. Equality is not acceptable in nature and in god's creation. Human beings can't change this universal truth.Misery starts when we are reluctant to accept the truth that is against our belief. One can find peace in war zone provided he accepts the reality and what is going on is beyond his control. One cannot find peace in an ideal state if he is not content with what he has got.

BTW it was a good article.

kasthuri said...

This is bit irrelevant here. I cant access twitter. Your voice over for Sameera in Midnight Dogs is amazing. :P . How did you make all those screaming effects so perfect?

Kalyan said...

Great work done by Mr.anant Pai for the generations to come. May his soul rest in peace.

yogi said...


Yes. We need the light of education to reach the corners. But like Aakarsh, i am not sure if what currently goes under "Education" is that light. All that people learn is if you want job X with Salary Y, get Z degree from so & so college. Then at the end of the day you can have Roti, Kapda & Makaan for yourself and your near & dear. So from people "educated" for this purpose, is that fair to expect them to think of the many that starve often ?

Apart from that, a good post. Refreshing to see a not-showy post from someone in showbiz.

Narendra KV said...

Wonderful post - and what a great man. I relive my childhood, every evening, when I read those wonderful stories with my son. Thanks Uncle Pai. You are truly a Bharat Ratna

Priya Sivan said...

Well deserving tribute to "Uncle Pai" as he is affectionately called. As a parent, I would say that Tinkles and Amar Chitra Kathas helped in imbibing values in my kids during their childhood days. Nice post.

Ashwin S Kumar said...

Very well written...He was one of the greatest assets of the nation..& now one of the greatest losses...

R.I.P Uncle Pai

Matangi Mawley said...

I grew up in my granny's place- where prince and princesses were a part of my daily meals. There were ghosts, manthras, Vedic chants and everything else magical in her stories. Then there was dad- who initiated me into Ramayana/Mahabharatha. Then- ACK.

I still think- that when we are invited to some kind of Baby's 1st B'day or something ('Aanduniraivu')- the ideal gift would be a gift pack collection of these wonderful comics! Not many children these days, are blessed with the good fortune that I've had- when it comes to the part of 'cultural initiation'. India's education standard is so high- most indians are on the wall of fame of so many prestigious fortune 500 companies. Good thing. But apart from all that education and excellence- what most people seem to be lacking is the Cultural Intelligence. If homes can't provide it- at least schools must. But schools these days are too busy catering competitive spirit right from Kindergarten... Who has time for Ethics lessons?
7 yrs is the maximum we've got. teach a child whatever that you can by the time he/she reaches 7. then- he/she has got no time for you. but at one point of time- in future-- they would be grateful that they were initiated into this culture. it happened with me. it works.

ever since i heard of Mr. Anant Pai's passing away- I had been thinking about renewing my ACK collection. I had been thinking about writing about it on my blog. I did not do that yet. Over-joyed however, to see this post here. This must reach out to people.

Kudos to you!

Krishnan KR said...

Hi..How are you doing ? Do you know the missing Titles to complete your collection ? Looking for anything specific ?

Sreekant said...

An excellent post Chinmayee.
I was going through Google Doodle today and happened to reach your blog. Tinkle and ACK were the constant feed for many of us in our School. The library or a free period used to be the best time to rejoice holding and reading any issue of Tinkle (no matter if it was the latest or an year old).
Many of those moments were enlivened today reading about Anant Pai.
Thanks again for a wonderfully written post and our respect and reverence to Mr.Anant Pai - one of our most respected Indian thought leaders.