Maybe you understand how such small things can affect a child. I respect you for that. Because you know, you have made a difference, at least in my life. For that sensitive kid who visited the post-office on a late January morning just to mail her first story, and waited for three entire months before she got her first rejection letter, it made a huge difference. Your hand-written “Try try again and you will succeed,” was more powerful than a “We are very sad to inform you that your story was not accepted” ever could be. It was the most beautiful rejection letter I have ever received in my life, and I cherish it today. I wanted to frame that letter as a testimony which declared that Uncle Pai had written to me—the famous Uncle Pai, Tinkle’s editor…I remember how happy that rejection letter made me feel, you didn’t disappoint. You can covert the most difficult moments into something memorable. It’s amazing how you can do that.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Dearest Uncle Pai,
There was a day when I bought my first Tinkle. You became my hero then. I just wanted to tell you that you ranked better than Hrithick Roshan on my “favorite people” list, and I was such a devoted fan of yours! Well, you already know that you have a tremendous fan base out there, don’t you? Everyone from those backbenchers who read those Suppandi tales in between class periods to today’s middle aged fathers, who grew up reading your Amar Chitra Kathas love you! Oh sure, you’ve earned some great names. They call you the “Father of Indian Comics,” The “Genius” behind Tinkle….those names do sound grand. But to me, you have remained “Uncle,” Pai, the world’s best editor.
You are a very unusual person, Uncle. For one thing, you take time off to reply to nearly 100 letters a day, by hand. I wonder how you do it…you’ve been at it for the past thirty years, and things haven’t changed a bit for you. Maybe you write because you realize how important that polite hand-written rejection letter is to a kid who has sent in his first story in the hopes of becoming famous. Maybe you know that there is such a big difference between that warm letter which comes home with your encouragement when compared to just another e-mail in the inbox.
Well, life has moved on, hasen’t it? Tinkle is more than 25 years old already, and it must have been an exhausting journey…and now, a lot more has changed for India’s favorite comic. For one thing, you aren’t the chief editor anymore, and India Book House has sold the rights of Tinkle through ACK Media. The Amar Chitra Kathas can now be read on mobiles with Vodaphone, and a large number of your magazines have been digitalized. I was sad when I learned that you were retiring from the post of chief editor. But I hope that the next generation of kids can receive those same warm letters, I hope you can somehow continue to keep the smiles alive on their faces. Thanks, Uncle, for everything you have done for us. Your fans are loyal to you, and I can assure you that they will always be.
I remember how frustrated I was with my name once….”Lakshmi,”---it had been a name I had shared with so many aunts and family friends. There had to be a “Lakshmi” in every crowd, in every family gathering, in every single place. My name was so standard, and so very common! I remember what you told me one day: “In the past few decades, the name Lakshmi has become so uncommon. Glad to know you have such a lovely name. May the Goddess Lakshmi always bless you with good health and wealth.” You have no idea how much those simple words affected me. They made me feel so wonderful, and today, I’m not complaining. You really do have a way with children and teenagers, Uncle, because you understand us so well.
Thanks again for being such a great friend, supporter and editor! Thanks for all the lovely words of encouragement, and thanks for simply following your heart. If you hadn’t challenged yourself to become an editor—a profession so deviant from your educational plans, we wouldn’t have seen such a great magazine today!! Chief Editor or not a chief editor, it does not matter to me…as a person, Uncle, you truly are a hero, and I shall be your starry-eyed admirer forever. You are an inspiration, and will remain so, all life through.
(Uncle Pai's first letter to me...Its a letter which is still very close to my heart.)
Posted by Lakshmi Bharadwaj at 11:54 PM