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Childhood days are fun. When we look back at our childhood days, it feels so nostalgic. The kind of silly games we used to play, the kind of mischief we used to do, everything brings smiles on our faces. One such integral part of my childhood was reading Comics. Those were the days of primary school days i.e. below 5th STD. While my father was receptive to the idea of bringing story books for kids, he was not very appreciable to the idea of comics, I don't remember why, probably due to the cost factor. So officially, I used to get once-a-month quota of story books like "Champak", "Nanhe Samrat",or Suman Saurabh". (I am pleasantly surprised that I still remember these names!!). But then comics was a luxury item for me. It was also a kind of contraband item for all the kids in my neighborhood. The reason being that, parents won't buy it, and if you buy it yourself, questions will be raised as to where did you get the money from? It was banned in School too, because kids used to bring it and read during class time. So in short, Comics was loved by kids, loathed by teachers and avoided by parents. But then we all know what happens when you try to suppress something. It finds its own way!
So somewhere, some innovative business minded guy got an idea, and there started a business out of it- "Comics on Rent". Yes you heard it right, the idea of renting comics was very much real then. It was a booming business for shopkeepers then (not sure, if it continues even now). They knew that the kids can't buy comics, so they started renting it out. There were two kinds of comics, one of about 30 pages, costing around Rs 15, and another kind was of around 60 pages, used to be called as "Digest", and that used to cost about Rs 30. The time was of 1990s, more precisely around the year 1995, and I am sure, at that time, even this much price must have felt a bit steep for my parents. So anyway, the per day rental charge of the 30 pages comics was 50 paisa, and for Digest comics, it was Rs 1. Now, 50 paisa and Rs 1, were affordable for us kids. We used to get pocket money sometimes, and for doing household chores (or for marketing) we used to get paid such small-small remunerations. Well, now it looks funny for sure, but on the other hand I think it is a great idea for parent- Pay pocket money for household works. So we used to collect some money this way. We also used to keep eagle eye on roads on the way to School and back, just in case we find some 50 paisa coins on road, which will get us a day of happiness!! In fact, in those times, there used to 5 paisa, 10 paisa, 20 paisa and 25 paisa coins as well. So any single coin found on road, was like a treasure discovered! Besides these two, we had another way- comics sharing. So one kid will rent a comics in Rs 1, and he will finish it reading, pass it on to other ones. This way, by spending just Rs 0.50 or 1, 4-5 kids were able to enjoy reading the comics. In short, it was a financially difficult times for us, but then kids can conceive some great innovative ideas!
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The story of smuggling of Comics too is very fascinating. Since it was a contraband item, it had to be carried in hidden way. While taking to School, we used to carry them under shirts. We couldn't afford getting them seized by teachers. That would mean loss of Rs 15-30, which would drive us bankrupt easily (or we would have to sell some study books at half price, to make up for that). Sometimes, we used to read them while classes are going on, and there we used to hide it below our genuine textbooks. The moment teacher will come, the comics would be slid under the textbook and we used to pretend we are such a studious students!! :D
At home too, it had to be hidden many times. Most of us kids were addicted to comics, and parents didn't used to see it as a good habit. They used to think, we are always lost in imaginary world, and we better spend more time over school books, doing some "real" study. So our life was difficult, but we used to have fun nonetheless.
Talking of comics characters, mine was a small town, but the shopkeeper owners used to have all the varieties of comics. Since space was less, they used to spread all the comics on a make-shift stall outside their shop. Kids could go there, scroll through them, and pay them Rs 0.5 or 1, to take away one comics for a day. Sometimes I wonder, how they used to trust us without any IDs. May be they were sure that we are not going to change School/town ever, or may be they just trusted the honesty of a kid! So there were comics of all characters, and we used to cherish many. There was Nagraj, there was Doga, there was Chacha Choudhary-Rocky-Sabu trio, and then my most favourite one "Super Commando Dhruv"!! I absolutely used to love Dhruv's comics, they used to fascinate me, primarily because he was able to do everything without any super-power. He used to crack most cases just with help of his brilliant mind-power! Then Nagraj too used look great. I don't remember any more characters right now. Ok, I did a quick google to refresh my mind, and after going through more names on Internet, I recall to have read following heroes comics too- Parmanu, Bhokal, Tiranga, Bankelal. Bankelal and Chacha Choudhary were kind of non-action, cartoon characters. And I have been an action loving guy, so I used to love more the other action oriented comics. Dhruv and Nagraj comics were my most read comics.
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I miss them so much these day. I think they are still available to buy, they can be ordered online as well. Last year, I had come across a website where many comics were available to read online too (free of cost). And now, I can buy them easily too. I just noticed that they are available just Rs 40 onwards. But I don't know why, I don't feel like buying them. First, because I hardly get time to read these days. And also because, I am not able to related to those comics now. They look a bit childish now. Guess there was a big gap in my reading habits, and slowly I graduated from those pictorial comics to textual novels of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and slowly to more matured novels. But still, If I had my way, I would love to read Dhruv and Nagraj comics. I just wish that the creators of those comics, start a different version of comics too- for grown up folks, which could be on the line of the novels of Robert Ludlum or Agatha Christie. They could present Dhruv and Nagraj as RAW under-cover agents, or may be a supercop of Special Ops group.
Ending it up here. Heartiest thanks to all the comics creators, specially the creator of Dhruv - Anupam Sinha