It was during a school quiz competition in the 1960s when Anant Pai was surprised to notice that kids were able to easily answer questions related to Greek mythology & European history, but were stumped when it came to even the simplest questions related to Indian epics. It was not a one-off instance, as he had started noticing such disturbing trend among his relatives & friends circle as well, where kids were unaware of their own cultural roots.
With years of experience as cartoonist & executive roles at Times of India, he felt it was time to utilize his expertise in bringing out the rich cultural heritage of India, in the form of colorful cartoons which could catch the imagination of youngsters. That's how he quit his well-paying job in 1967 and started "Amar Chitra Katha" (which translates to "Immortal Picture Stories") in a tiny garage which revolutionized the publishing industry.
Every month, Uncle Pai & his team would take up a certain theme or character from Indian epics and go through hundreds of relevant material including ancient scriptures, palm leaf manuscripts, poetry, folk-tales, etc, to collect as much genuine information as possible, and finally collate them into highly engaging stories narrated in the form of colorful comics which were painstakingly hand-drawn, with great attention to details.
Despite such brilliant & exemplary comics, the initial sales were way below expectations, as centuries of oppression & brainwashing had set deep prejudice among Indians against their own culture due to which most parents were hesitant to buy such cultural books for their kids. That's when Uncle Pai started personally carrying his comics in large suitcases to schools & showcasing/marketing them at events like annual day, sports day, cultural fest, etc.
By directly reaching out to kids through such school events, Uncle Pai was able to make significant impact, as those kids would then persuade their parents to buy the comics. Once they got into the habit of reading about Indian cultural characters, they would become fans of Amar Chitra Katha, eagerly waiting for its next book launch, month after month, year after year, thereby helping it attain cult-status. In the process, Uncle Pai not only managed to make them aware about Indian epics & historical characters, but also inculcated Indian values and made them proud of their own cultural roots.
With more than 500+ titles published over the decades in 40+ languages (including several foreign languages), Amar Chitra Katha is now one of the biggest publications in the world! Thanks to the unique packaging concepts like "collections", "gift packs" in conventional forms, along with e-books & apps in digital space, it has been effectively serving its purpose of spreading further awareness about Indian culture among new-age youngsters and thus fulfilling the vision of Uncle Pai through innovative ways even today.
Guruprasad (or “GP” in short) is a Chief Engineer & Technology Mentor by profession and spends a...View Profile
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