Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Letter to Uncle Pai

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.

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.

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.
Yours Affectionately,

(Uncle Pai's first letter to me...Its a letter which is still very close to my heart.)


Praveen G K said...

Nice Lakshmi,

I was a big fan of Tinkle and ACK....I owe the mythological knowledge, mainly to my grandmom and ACK :-)

They were just awesome. ACK was especially great when it was in raw paper format, before it got transformed to the glossy cover. What say?


A very nice post, Lakshmi. I enjoyed reading it very much. ACK was very popular with our children too, and as an adult I also enjoyed remaking my acquaintance with the stories heard from my grandparents

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Mr. Praveen: Totally agreed! The older ones, illustrated esp by Ram Weerkar, were THE best! I loved reading them...hav u noticed how costly the reproductions of the old versions have become...cost 50 bucks or something per book...thats lik 1 rupee per page! That's a lot to pay, isnt it?
Raji Maami: Thanks...nice to knw that even you grew up reading someo of my favorite comics...I love Amar Chitra Kathas..they have a charm to them...although today, the reproduced versions have become unoriginal, and costly, as i have said. Thanks for the comment.

Anup said...

Thanks for reminding me. Hehe, I remember how I excited I used to be with every new Tinkle I got. We had arranged for 3 books to be delivered. I got Tinkle, Gokulam and Champak. Champak was my favourite because it had more stories in the narrative format and I enjoyed them more but Tinkle was awesome too!
I'm not sure about how it is today cause age has come into picture, I guess. My favourite part of tinkle was when it started coming out in the digest format. It was a dream come true for me then. You're right on the genius part. Uncle Pai has made a lot of kids happy.

remainconnected said...

this is a sooper cool post..another fan here and thanks for making me visit my childhood..

ARJuna said...

Hi there,
Firstly thank you so much for following my blog. Its you readers who make my day. Please do keep visiting once in a while to read the posts.
Secondly you brought back those memories which I had forgoten in this drab, hectic, pressurised college life of mine. I was reminded of my tinkle collection and how my grandma used to send those Amar Chitra Kathas!!!Thank you for that too.
A sweet post that compels us to reminisce of our childhood. Loved it

aneri_masi said...

Sighh....I want to read an old old old copy of Tinkle. NOW!

This was so cute, Lakshmi! I loved ACK and Tinkle's Kaalia the crow, and other characters.

And, please don't laugh, but for the longest time I thought that Uncle Pai was as fictional as Raja Hooja!

praneshachar said...

wonderful testimony. great way of showing your affection to uncle pai. no doubt the name lakshmi is very common but your frustration has been taken away by those marvellous words of uncle pai. no doubt tinkle is a household name among children in India. I too have read as I was getting it for my son a very good children comic and geat work being done by uncle pai. my salutation too to uncle pai
have a great time ahead

Swarna said...

Lakshmi, Lakshmi! :)
Uncle Pai is a real Bharat ratna. My sisters and I had read all the ACK's at a friend's place in Coimbatore, and I recently fulfilled my dream of having the whole lot of ACKs. And also get Tinkle for my son, (and us!). But perhaps - just perhaps even Tinkle is moving from homely analog to impersonally digital world?

Disha said...

That is really nice! I too am a vivid reader of tinkle. I started to flip through the pages when i was 5 and look at the colorful illustrations. My favorite characters "Ajay" , Shikari Shambu and of course Tantri the mantri! Yeah the prices are soaring high nowadays. The old versions were far better than the new versions.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Anup sir: Thanks for the comment. Ooh, you read Gokulam too? They were the good ol' magazines...I love Tinkle Digest too...aren't they wonderful?

RemainConnected: Thanks! :-) Childhood is synonymous with Tinkle, even for me. ;)

ARjuna: You are certainly most welcome! :-D Loved your blog, and loved seeing more young writers on the net!!! Aha! chapter of life, eh?? Do keep bloggin, n ill b sure to keep poppin into ur blog during tea-time!:D Happy blogging!

Aneri_Masi: Yeah!! Me wanna do that too....NOW!!! (I subscribe internationally to Tinkle, so the matter of reading it is easy fr me! :D) Come over sometimes, I hav loads of tinkles u might lik! :D

Mr. Pranesh: Wow, thanks for noticing that!! :-) The only person who commented abt that part to do with my name...well, I completely agree with you..Uncle Pai changed me. Sometimes, simple words can make all the difference...encouragement can come from the most remote sources.

Mrs. Swarna: Yeah...I keep going back to Tinkle on my blogs, isn't it? Great to know you still subscribe to tinkle...but what you say is very much true...too much of it is digitalized these days. Have you noticed the new type of covers...glossy, but not too attractive. But the problem fr me is, Tinkle is an addiction no matter the flaws! :D Great to knw u have so many ACK's at home!! Make it a library...ACK's are treasure troves of knowledge!

Little Disha: Welcome to my blog, dearie! :-) First comment, eh?? :D I know you lov tinkle right frm the time i saw ur profile...don't we all love them!? They were my life back when I was your age, and I still sometimes think they are...but they are a little costly now no? Digests and Summer Specials...well, let's just say we can't really afford them with our pocket-money. That's really keep blogging! :D

Sneha said...

Good post Lakshmi! Tinkle is really an awesome comic! And ACK was one source of mythological knoweledge, really!

Oh I have shifted my blog to:! kindly edit your blog roll okay :D

take care and continue writing! i enjoy reading this space!

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Sneha: Thanks a lot! Will edit my blogroll A.S.A.P.! :-)

ಸಂತೋಷ್ ಚಿದಂಬರ್ said...

Nice one Laksmi.. :)

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

santosh: thanks a lot for the comment! I loved your blog too and will keep visiting! thankfully, I'm a kanndiga, so I can read your blogs do write so well! :-)

Sanj said...

I have been touched by Tinkle as well as I'd written in my comical nostalgia post…! Yeah I am a fan of Uncle Pai as well and it was really cool to read that other post of yours as well! :)

Harshad Joshi said...

Missing those good old days...not only tinkle, but also the evergreen Chandmama(chandoba in marathi), Champak(dinku, raju and the squirrel, champakvan)

how i wish i return to innocence.....

ashwin ramachandran said...

Stumbled upon this post which was tweeted by "suppandi"..
superrrrrrrrrrb post.. Truly, Uncle Pai remains close to many kids' heart!
Keep writing.

Irvin Sabastian Nellikunnel Joseph said...

real inspiring para you wrote there lakshmi. i too remember how my first story was rejected in tinkle with a complimentary note from uncle pai and i went on to write and had my 3 or 4 stories printed on tinkle itself if it wasn't for uncle pai encouragement.
u brought back my old memories

commenting late by an year i knw sorry.......

Nimisha said...

Thats a beautiful post.

Uncle Pai was our grand uncle ( Nana Pai ). It is very nostalgic to see this post just a day after he has passed away. You have brought back great Tinkle Memories. Just a big thank you to all of you.