Monday, May 29, 2006

Kathas and their mite

As I was browsing for RK Narayan Books in the university library, my thoughts reflected back to the days when I used to read books from the local books circulating library near my old house in Malleswaram, back in Bangalore. For a period of 3-4 years, I was staying in Malleswaram 17th cross, next to MSIL Apartments, which housed 6 families. By the way, MSIL is Mysore Sales International Limited, and a public sector enterprise of the Government of Karnataka. The apartment was meant to be for the officers of this enterprise. The building in which I stayed comprised of four houses. The best part of these two buildings was that there were a lot of children in my age group (I was about 8-9 years old then). We easily formed a group of about 10 kids in the block. We had abundant fun in the form of innumerable cricket matches played in the apartment basement. You can still see the white chalk adorning the apartment wall in the name of wickets! Life was complete with school in the morning, cricket in the evening for a couple of hours, and by 6:30 in the evening, all of us were ready to walk about 200m upfront to Cynosure Circulating Library, which had a good number of children's books and nice magazines for the elders. The library uncle (don't know his name since we never address him in any other way) was a nice friendly man entertaining us with his jokes and suggesting us to read new books in the library. We would spend fifteen minutes deciding what to read, and then he would make an entry in the long ledger note book to keep a tab of the books we take.

All of us used to head back home eagerly, and without giving a thought to anything else, we would all be absorbed in Enid Blyton's Famous Five, Five Findouters, Secret Seven (though I never read much as even then I found it to be too childish), Nancy Drew, Hardy boys (occasionally), Tintin, Asterix, Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle, Champak, Chandamama, Gokulam, Wisdom, Alfred Hitchcock's The Three Investigators, and others. There would also be a competition as to who would finish the books first as it was a matter of pride to be the first one to do so. Since the library was not a charitable organization, there would be a nominal charge of 50p or 1Re for each book per day. So, we would read the books, and then exchange the books so that we wouldn't have to spend on the same book the next day. The fictitious characters of Julian, Anne, Dick, George and Timothy (Famous Five), Fatty (Five Findouters) formed a part of our lives with discussions hovering on what could have been done on their part to escape the bad guys. Moralistic books like Champak, Chandamama and Gokulam conveyed a lot through light hearted stories. The stories may be very simple but they carried a world of a message and it helped us realise what was good and what was bad. At that age, it makes a big difference to get the right message across, and these books did a wonderful job in doing that. Tintin and Asterix are amazing comics about which one can go on and on, and the readers are easily immersed in the sense of humour portrayed by Captain Haddock and Obelix. These are characters immortalised. Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha by India Book House have some of the best series from the Indian perspective. The comics were so simple and easy to understand that easily keeps the reader engrossed. Amar chitra Katha has taught me the importance of Indian culture with their depiction of all the mythological characters and the Indian heroes. Draupadi's swayamwar was never so fascinating again, Chandragupta Maurya's conquests were never so exciting again, Asoka's realisation was never so baffling again, Birbal's and Tenali Rama's wits were never forgotten, Ras Behari Bose's tryst with the British was mind blowing, Mangal Pandey could never be more fun even when replicated on the big screen, the Bhagavad Gita was rereadable a million times from that little book, Ramayana and Mahabharata taught us new meanings with those wonderful pictures, and so Amar Chitra Katha has easily forayed the Indian culture and its deep frontiers to the common man with ease. I always used to envy the intelligence of Jupiter Jones (he is the smart guy in Alfred Hitchcock's The Three Investigators) in solving a case with perfect reasoning.

The library taught me the importance of reading books. It is a lifeline which is as essential as your day to day activities. The amount of knowledge one gets from books is unparallel to any other source. Life is never more enjoyable with a baale-ele (plantain leaf) meal, and a book by your side, with your mother yelling at you to keep the book aside while eating. You should experience this to visualize it and life without this is never complete!


  1. hey..tht was like reliving my childhood...i have grown up with these is exactly the same way we were...reading a book then circulating it and then reading another were the good ol' days...with the good ol' books...

  2. recently shifted to banglore....i am learning to like malleswaram. Incidently the books r getting replaced by CDs. I was also Champak and phantom (like which all ed he showed his face!!) fan!!