He has gained respect and admiration over the ages. For his wit and humour and for the simple fact that ‘his brain works faster than a computer’. Yes, every child is well- acquainted with their favourite Diamond Comics superhero, Chacha Chaudhary – the suave and wise old man with a neatly trimmed moustache, who wears a red turban and carries a walking stick around. But, he walks as briskly as any superhero that could fly and maneuver in mid-air wearing tight briefs and his sharp intellect could certainly put any muscle man to shame. As a child, I would love to lay my hands on the heap of Chacha Chaudhary comics that father would get for us from the second-hand shop below. It was like a library we borrowed from and returned after we finished reading. I loved the Hindi series of Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu more to its English translations; the Hindi dialogues always proved more interesting –Jab Sabu ko gussa aata hai toh door kahi jwalamukhi phatta hai.
As much as I admired Chaudhary uncle, I also admired his loyal friend, Sabu, who was a native of the planet Jupiter. The incredibly tall and bald Sabu who struts along in his gum boots and wears a ‘kaccha’ is stronger than the strongest and perhaps, the only comic character from the alien world to learn the Hindi language – “Chachoondaron, main tumhari chutney bana doonga” was Sabu’s popular dialogue. Thanks to the wonderful imagination and creativity of cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma, we had a memorable childhood reading Diamond comics. He passed away on August 6, 2014 at the age of 75, but leaves behind his footprints in the various characters he created – Raman, Pinky, Billoo, Shrimati ji are equally good company for people reading Indian comics. Pran’s comic characters have not only been accepted by children, but widely appreciated by parents and elders alike. When the western superheroes were ruling roost, our very own Chacha Chaudhary went on to become a child’s favourite. And because a show of strength was quintessential to achieve stardom, Sabu stepped in to find prominence, but displayed his prowess only when needed. Not only was Chacha Chaudhary loved by children who read of his adventures, but he was also a favourite with Billoo and Pinky – the sweet and mischievous child characters of Pran. In fact, all of Pran’s characters have been middle-class Indians and going by living standards of the nineties, I could easily relate to their everyday stories.
I remember not having a liking for Chacha Chaudhary’s wife, Bini Chachi, who was a fat and dominating lady wearing polka-dotted sarees that never suited her. “Kya din bhar duniya ko hi theek karoge, kuch ghar ka bhi khayal hai?” – Bini Chachi kept saying, while Chacha ji fondly addressed her as ‘Bhaagwaan’! But, Pran balanced her nagging traits well in many of the stories where she was found to have a good heart.
My liking for dogs started with Tintin’s Snowy, but perhaps grew strong after observing Rocket (Raaket in Hindi) – Chacha Chaudhary’s faithful companion. Raaket amused me thoroughly with his intelligence and speed, and the fact that he was a vegetarian made the mongrel even more interesting.
Pran couldn’t have made a better team of comic heroes for dealing with wrong-doers and Raaka couldn’t have been a better villain. The dirty unkempt Raaka who is also Sabu’s biggest enemy had been portrayed as the bad man who never seemed to learn a lesson. Chacha Chaudhary had been the common man who went about helping others in the society. Pran had infused life into his characters with witty dialogues and creating real-life situations. I had wondered as a child why Sabu avoided the topic of marriage and why was it even necessary to raise such a topic in a fast-pacing adventure story. I have my answers now – Cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma is rightly called the father of Indian comics.
Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu adventures have always kept readers glued to the pages and wanting for more. I grew up with Asterix, Tintin and Phantom, but my childhood would have been incomplete if I didn’t touch upon Chacha Chaudhary and the bunch of lovable characters from Diamond Comics. Thank you, uncle Pran for making our childhood so delightful. Rest in Peace.