As a regular reader of Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha comics in school, I had a great intention of meeting Uncle Pai in person. Then when I completed my education, I happened to come across a vacancy in a leading newspaper for the post of an Editorial Assistant for Tinkle magazine. I applied for the job and two weeks later, I received a telephone call from Anant Pai popularly known as Uncle Pai himself on my office landline number (Remember, there were no mobile phones, pagers, and computers then).
Excited, I applied for leave the next day and went for the interview (the address was of course given to me). When I knocked on the cabin door, I was dumbfounded as I was seeing this famous personality in person. The interview was not a tough one and Uncle Pai was all smiles. I was selected for the job. Till today, I am working for the same organisation.
My first day at the Tinkle office was reading and replying to all the letters received by post as there were no computers then. I would draft my own letters to children as well as grown-ups as I was very good in English. In school, I would get full marks in essay writing. Though I committed a lot of typing errors, Uncle Pai was very calm and gentle and brought the errors to my notice.
Today, I still remember Uncle Pai even though he’s no more with us. He expired on February 24, 2011, at the age of 81. Uncle Pai was the man who started Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha comics. He was born on September 17, 1929, in a small town in Karkala in Karnataka State. Six days before he died, Uncle Pai was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at India’s first comic convention in New Delhi. Unfortunately, he couldn’t attend the function as he was in the hospital battling between life and death.
Uncle Pai (or Anant Pai) was very fond of children. He would shower children who would come along with their parents to the Tinkle office with lots of gifts, autographed copies of Amar Chitra Kathas, Tinkles, Tinkle Digests, Flipbooks, Tinkle magazine character stickers, book labels, Flying discs, Tinkle characters T-shirts, etc — all free. Every letter/story was also replied to in those days.
Anant Pai (or Uncle Pai, as he is fondly called), is the man behind the Indian comics. It was he who started the first Indian comic ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ in the year, 1970. Ten years later, in the year 1980, he came out with another children’s magazine, Tinkle, which is still in popular demand today.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)