1. says

    Awww, Amar Chitra Katha. I remember them. I used to love them, growing up; had them practically memorized. Then we had to give our collection away to a library when we moved into my grandfather’s house. Later, when I moved to the US, I decided I wanted a full set (or as full a set as I could have), and had the store – the excellent Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (approximate translation: Indian House of Knowledge), in Chennai – scour the country looking for them. They did an excellent job and found me ~150 of the 220 or so that had been published at the time, including some that were then out of print and had been languishing in a warehouse somewhere. I was SO happy – but then they would have been, as well, considering I told them to “spare no expense” :-) That little statement cost me Rs. 10,000/- (about $250), that in my mind, was fully worth every paisa/penny, but 10 years on, I still hear “you could have got them much more cheaply if you bargained – I can’t believe you just threw away your money like that” from my family.

    After all that, and to my intense disappointment, when I actually read them all again, it was apparent that the Hindutva faction (the rabidly religious Hindu supremacist organizations like RSS, VHP, Shiv Sena, etc) had most definitely had their grubby paws all over them, because there was just SUCH a difference from what I remembered, especially those dealing with the British Raj and independent India. A lot of the facts had disappeared, replaced with subtly or more usually, blatantly false, Hindutva propaganda. Even in the myths and stories from the Vedas and Upanishads, the bias was palpable, although I’m not sure I could point to any particular example – it is just an overall feeling. I think I might have missed the subtle biases, growing up in that culture and still living in it at the time. Besides, I was a child and still learning to hone my critical thinking skills, in spite of my family’s (Hindu) and school’s (Evangelical Christian) efforts. Actually, I think making those comparisons in real time and observing the actual reality of people’s lives, it made it super-clear to me that neither was a bastion of truth. It also didn’t take me very long to extend that diagnosis to all the other religions that I read about.

    Now I know I can have fun reading SOME of the stories to my beloved 2yo niece (a lot of them have casual violence that horrifies me today, that I most certainly do NOT want her exposed to), and making it clear that these are just as fictional as the talking animals in the books that she likes to read, 24×7, when there aren’t any handy electronics nearby to watch the same.

  2. Radi says

    Oh, I almost forgot – belated wishes on your two-year blogiversary, Avicenna. I enjoy reading your posts, considering I have a lot of similar issues with the Indian diaspora, culturally speaking, that you do. And I find your observations of India spot-on.

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