On Anagha’s eighteenth birthday, her sister managed to decorate her cake with miniature models of her favourite comic heroes and sheroes. That prompted Anagha to take a trip back in time, into the world of her comic heroes – Luttappi and Kuttusan and Ramu and Shyamu and so many more.
It was on a rainy morning at my grandmother’s place, close to a decade and a half ago, that I first fell in love with comic heroes.
My mother was at the hospital and my mutassi (grandmom) was entrusted with the tedious task of taking care of the 4-year-old me. I was a little bundle of mischief. It was during one of those days that I crept into the attic unnoticed, while mutassi was busy preparing breakfast. I sought to explore the attic, pulling down boxes, climbing up shelves and pushing my little self into nooks and corners. My frantic movements disturbed the delicate balance of the attic. A bunch of dust coated comic books landed on me with a sudden thud.
I stared at those colourful covers for a while and then curiously picked one of them up. I slowly began turning the pages when mutassi stormed into the attic. She was furious but the worn out copy of Balabhumi (translating to World of Kids) in my hands seemed to calm her down. She took me downstairs to the verandah and began reading out to me.
The story of the little red demon Luttappi who flew around on a spear, Malu the rabbit magician, the smart fox Suthran and his dimwitted tiger friend Sheru came alive before my eyes. My fascination for them knew no bounds. My amazement was further fueled when mutassi told me that she herself had loved these magazines as a little girl. I fought with her over the age of Kuttusan and Dakini, the old couple whose only goal in life was to entrap the good demon Mayavi.
It would not be wrong to say that these comic heroes pushed me to learn to read my mother tongue Malayalam which unfortunately remains foreign to most of my Dubai clan.
That year, as my family zipped up the last baggage to return to UAE, I still remember being drowned in tears; less out of the pain of separation from the extended family than the pain of parting with a dozen copies of Balabhumi and Balarama which my mom had removed from the luggage bags as a last attempt to fit into the baggage limit.
A few years later, when I was around 9 or 10, the sudden craze for Tinkle Digest swept over me and my classmates. We took pride in owning more Tinkle’s than the other. Each copy was read from cover to cover (excluding the fact file which didn’t seem worthwhile!), devouring the valiant and often not so valiant feats of Shikari Shambu, the cute innocence of the twins Ramu and Shyamu and the sheer bad luck of Tantri the Mantri. Weekly trips to the nearby Choithram store to purchase the latest edition of Tinkle became a tradition.
As I celebrated my eighteenth birthday, my sister managed to decorate my cake with miniature models of my favourite comic heroes and ‘sheroes’. Realization dawned on me that in between scores of comic stories, wild imaginations and friendly fights over group reading sessions, adulthood had knocked at my door. As I complete schooling and am preparing to leave this desert land I fondly call home, the only solace is in knowing that my university destination is the birthplace of my dearest comic heroes.
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