Several months ago I had written of Mr Anant Pai, a man I had never met but whose work has had a profound influence on my thoughts, my love, respect and devotion for this land, my respect for those who laid down their lives for this country. Boring history lessons would have never made me realize the quantum of work by Bhagat Singh, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das, Savarkar or of the Tatas and Birlas, of scientists and finally that which I love the most - stories from the Puranas, Upanishads, Jatakas, Mahabharata, Hitopadesha, Ramayana, folk tales and faiths of the world. A man whose team and illustrations and language gave me a command over English far beyond my age when I was very young. Comics which told me faith could move mountains. That God hears our pleas. That all are equal in the eyes of God. In Tales of Yudhishtra, Lord Yama in disguise questions Yudhishtra if a Brahman is made by conduct or learning. Yudhishtra's reply that a Brahman becomes one only by conduct and not by birth was imprinted in my mind.
The practices at home, the way my grandfather and mom led by example further established these stories and they became a way of life. So many times have I heard my mother say that it is hard to come across a true Brahman today. Only he, she used to say, that walks in the path to know Brahman, the Omnipresent, Omnipotent and the In-dweller of all beings, the Supreme, is the Brahmana. Brahma-charya. To walk in the path of knowing the Brahman. If we had to follow the varnasrama, being classified by what we do in our professions in today's world, we would all be known by different names. When we sit down to watch our thoughts and what we think about, everyone would probably have to wait for a thought on high ideals to come by. Maybe for a long time. Forget meditating on God. We mostly meditate on the idiotic driver on the road or how we got irritated or countless other things. That's the way we all are and that has become the rumdrum now.
Over the years over and over have I read these comics. I used to have a 100 titles initially, a lot of which are out of print. Out of the initial 100, I have only 30 left. The others were borrowed and never returned. But I built the collection again, scour the website every once in a while and I see they are systematically bringing out titles that were out of print, one by one. And now I have over 300 though at various points in time I have read all their titles. I ll have to wait for the others to be printed and complete my collection. I remember the feeling of blood rushing through my veins as if I were witnessing the Independence struggle myself. Or suddenly praying to Krishna or Vitthal with all my heart after reading the ACK of Kanakadas or Jagannath of Puri.
Of kings and queens, tyrants and benevolent men, Gods and Goddesses, Saints and Reformers, Thinkers and Industrialists, Freedom fighters and silent revolutionaries. How easily they communicated some of the most complex ideologies so that it could be understood by a child of 8 in those blurbs. And how easily the comics reveal more and more meaning at every read even to an adult.
Legend has it that Anant Pai began ACK when he saw that children could answer questions on Greek mythology during a quiz but did not know who Sita or Rama were. Or maybe the question was who was the father of Rama. And in the ACK titles he went back to the very origin of origins and where it all started. The Gita. The Mahabharata. The Ramayana. Jesus Christ. Zarathrushtra. Mahavira. The various Sikh Gurus. And how in breaking ancient wisdom to speak the language that can be understood even by young child, I knew from then that God is one. But then as I grew the world wanted to teach me different things. Of divisions and castes and creeds. What the ACK team could do in 40 pages or less most exponential books could not. How he taught so many Sanskrit words and simultaneously taught us the meaning of those. Mantradrashta - the seer of the mantra from Shunahshepa as he was referred to by learned sages of that age in the ACK Title of the same name. This title is currently out of print. But should be available at libraries, if someone hasn't already stolen them. :p
As said by Mr Narayanamurthy in his book A Better India, A better world, we seem to be a country where reservation is not on the basis of merit but caste. Someone on Twitter said the other day that no country can prosper by discriminating against its people. And to this day the caste card is played even amongst the educated masses and we fall prey again and again. The light of education does not reach so many sections of the society. While many starve, the immediate thought is to fill this stomach. Who cares about education?
Thinkers like Narayanamurthy ask us to give back to the society. India, once known for its charity is now bereft of charitable people and philanthropists. Perhaps we have given up. Given up on the system, whatever is left of it or the lack of it. Everyone would rather run away from this country and come back when they have children, so that they can grow up in this 'culture'. A lot of others prefer not to do that as well.
Today we realize more that there is no freedom of speech in this country which is a fundamental right for the citizen of India. So we dare not opine and keep quiet. Even if children do, they are promptly asked to shut up. Informed of dire consequences. And the more I talk to people and the more I listen, the more I keep my eyes open, it all looks as if there seems to be a greater force which seems to benefit if we all decided to be divided on the various reasons given to us. History is refreshed and hate is bred anew. Suddenly blood will boil and people would be urged to take revenge on ancestors who would have long known the truth that we are all one. We come from the same source and go back to the source. But in between the entire tamasha happens. And we the educated, shall keep quiet. Not even dare to think and even pray that good shall happen to our people. We, however, are trained to say that this country will go to the dogs. Or indha naadu uruppadavae uruppadaadhu. And translations of it in the hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in India.
I know my limitations as a human being and also know of my strength. Everyday I send out a prayer to the Gods of the Universe, with no name or form, to help my country and its people. To help the people of this earth. If you, the reader, is sniggering here, please go ahead and may you be happy if that brings you the joy.
But in the words of Anant Pai and all the characters that have spoken to me through his ACK, God does listen and God does answer prayers. And I know there are countless praying similarly in various tongues for the same thing in various parts of the world. And in knowing my limitations and my strength as a single human being I pray to that one God asking for deliverance and a better future for the children. God could turn his back on Brahman priests and turn to face his devotee Kanakadasa at Udupi who was lamenting the fate of not being allowed to see him, at the back of the temple. Now we all have to see the Lord through the very same window. Of Lord Ranganatha refusing to open the doors because a Brahman priest had assaulted the "untouchable" of Tiruppan. And unless the priest carried Tiruppan around the temple and brought him to the Lord he wouldn't open them. Or of the divine trance of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Or the divine love of Mirabai. How God helped the ones that loved him with all their heart and came to them in the form that they wanted to see him the most.
Anant Pai passed on a couple of days back. But his work is Amar. Immortal.
I wish I could have touched your feet Sri Pai. But it was not to be. I send my salutations to you. You awoke an entire generation from the slumber of ignorance of its cultural ethos. The light shines bright. And it shall continue to.
Rest in Peace.