Many years ago, there was a time when children used to rush to the portico to get a grab of the daily newspaper and briskly skip the pages to see a page meant especially for them (the page which transported the kids of that generation to the world of their favourite comic character who appeared in comic strips).
It was a pleasure for the kids to know the latest crisis and conflict and the way in which their favourite hero escaped from deadly traps and hard core villains and get ready to move on to the next episode. This was the time when Mandrake the magician with his macho pal Lothar thrashed, bashed and crushed the evil doers and it was a time when Phantom the ghost who walks- simply pulped even the most dangerous of the bad men with his brain and brawn!
It was a time when Superman and Batman not to forget our Spiderman who mesmerised the kids with their stunts and miraculous escapes from deadly villains! And of course a set of other heroes like Zorro, Green Lantern, Captain America, Tarzan and of course the rib ticklers Disney’s Uncle Scrooge, Mickey and Donald and their big family who showed the generation the path to real enjoyment, a path to a world of do good and be good and inculcating in the young minds that “the right always triumphs.’’
I remember when I was in class four I wrote a letter to Mandrake to come and save me from some class bullies! Whether the letter reached his house in ‘’ Xanadu’’ God alone knows! But that was the influence that comics had in the hearts of our generation sans Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the whole bunch of social media network that has simply imprisoned the hearts of today’s children.
Time has changed. It is only with awe and bewilderment that one can watch the way in which cyber technology is creating rapid ripples in our day-to-day life. Gone are the days of the comics, the television and the play stations. Now it is the age of Direct to home digital viewing, 3D TV’s, LCDs, Androids, Ipads and a hundred and one other e-gizmos, apps and online games!
Technology has improved our lifestyle, enhanced our knowledge, promoted and redefined our sociability. Now, glance through the pages of any daily, tune into any channel or click any e-gadget that supplies day to day happenings –violence, bloodshed, riots, murders and all sorts of evils that dominate the scenario and that too aided by technology. It poses a question-how and why –in this modern cyber age era, does technology turn fatal. It turns fatal when one forgets oneself ….and when one forgets one’s culture and heritage and of course the values of love, peace and harmony. It is here that I would like to mention the contribution made by Late Sri Ananth Pai (uncle Pai), the pioneer of Indian comics or better known as the creator of Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle.
The teens of the 1970s and the 80s can never forget the pleasure they had while browsing through the pages of those colourful comic books. Ananth Pai created those books in order to show the young Indians the route to their roots after sadly noting the ignorance of the teens regarding their great Indian culture and heritage. He proved that reading not only refreshes, it even moulds an individual’s character and thereby the society. Reading has the power to take the young and the old back to their great culture, tradition and heritage. Inculcating the habit of reading, leads to creativity and high thinking and it is here that I would like to say that reading, especially comic books does give many benefits to young minds.
I remember my childhood days, when I used to spend hours together at the very famous old book market road adjacent to the Corporation clock tower in Coimbatore city, browsing through comics of all hues and sizes, foreign and desi and packing them home to add up to my collection of comics. Thanks to my parents who only encouraged me to read comics.
Many criticise the habit of comic book reading saying that it is gaudy, fictitious and time killing. I remember an English teacher of our days in my school in Coimbatore distributing comic books during our library and free periods and encourage us all to tell the stories to our classmates. Now, as an English teacher, I do realise that my teacher was only trying to enhance our reading and speaking skills in a very entertaining and novel manner. As a senior teacher, I have realised that comics are perfect vehicles that ignites young readers to improve imagination and artistic skills. Comics also help to increase the vocabulary through the connection between words and images. They are useful for English language learners. It develops appreciation for different literary styles, teaches positive messages and opens the readers mind to new ways of story telling, imagination and artistic talent. So next time if you find children engrossed in the pages of comics books or are found browsing one or hiding a bunch of these ‘’funnies’’ as they are called, it is better not to chide them but encourage them to read the books provided they are reading good content, language and a child friendly image packed book with understandable dialogues. Truly these books are free of toxic which sadly is high in most of the e-entertainment found today and readily accessible to innocent minds. Let comics guide them to a better way of understanding life, literature and language.
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