Thursday, October 14, 2004

Indrajal Ka Jal

Last month on 17th, I read about the birthday of Anant Pai, popularly known as 'Uncle' Pai. The name brought fond memories to my mind. After all, he was the person who introduced to us the fantabulous comic series like Amar Chitra Katha and Indrajal.

Along with Diamond and Raj comics series, these are the books on which our childhood fed into. The story about the starting of Amar Chitra Katha series itself is interesting. Pai was watching a quiz contest in Delhi, where participants knew about the Greek and Roman mythology inside-out, but couldn't answer who was God Ram's mother. This hurt him a lot, and inspired him introduce this famed series two years later in 1969.

But my favourite remains the enigmatic Indrajal Comics, which he had launched in 1964. They always involved a degree of mystery and adventure. Characters were colourful, and full of elan. Of course, the all time favourite was exotic Mr Walker- the Phantom. The ghost of who walks. His beautiful wife Diana (who worked for UN), the stallion Hero , the pet wolf Devil, and all those legendry tales about him(old jungle sayings) added to the charm.

His Sphinx/Skull shaped den, that skull symbol in his ring, which used to get imprinted in the jaws of the crooks, those two guns which he used simultaneously, and the tribal method to send messages across to Phantom by banging on the drums are now part of legendry tales. Then, those deep woods, the Bandar pygmies, the garden of Eden (where the big cats eat fish and Phantom goes skiing on dolphins), all were very captivating.

Then there were other characters as well. Magician Mandrake, his burly buddy Lothar, girl friend Narda, and Hojo (the secret chief of Inter-Intel, the entrance to which was an adventure in itself).

Another favourite was horse trotting Bahadur taking on with smugglers and dacoits around RajGarh, himself a son of dacoit.

The dashing Flash Gordon who patrolled outer space. Intellectual Rip Kirbee and his butler friend. Kerry Drake a no-nonsense New York cop.

Garth was a Lone Ranger helped by his soul mate, Goddess Astra. Buz Sawyer brought some comic relief to his adventures. Another character was Mike Nomad, whom I couldn't read much .

These names still give me goose pimples, and excitement remains the same. I can imagine myself settling round a corner, digging deep into these books, ignorant of the rest of the world. One thing about these heroes; I never saw any killing. All those gunshot were invariably aimed at hands or legs, and law took it's own course. There were some reformist attempts as well.

The best part was the cost. If one wanted to buy them, they were a meager Rs 3.5 a piece. Better so, if one wanted to rent and read - 35 paise for a day ! Never a princely sum, that. My heartiest thanks to Uncle Pai and Lee Falk.