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One of the architects of our childhood died on Wednesday. Pran Kumar Sharma created Chacha Chaudhary, a man who could solve any problem, as a comic character, but what he really was to us (at least three generations of children through the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s grew up reading him) is a friend; a constant companion through dark days of endless homework, teachers’ punishments, and boring tuition classes.

Pran, along with Anant ‘Uncle’ Pai and Aabid Surti, are the Holy Trinity of Indian comics. Uncle Pai gave us Tinkle and Amar Chitra Katha. Surti saab gave us Bahadur, the son of a killed dacoit who was raised by a policeman to defeat crime in the badlands of India. Between these three, I have no idea how we completed high school and later, even college.

Like most school children of the 1970s and 1980s, my friends and I frequented circulating libraries to rent Diamond Comics, Indrajal Comics and Amar Chitra Katha. There would be frequent fights over who would get the latest issue of Tinkle first. Rajiv, an extremely close friend of mine, once stopped talking to me for several days because I lied to him that the school principal had called him after school.

The poor guy waited outside her office while I ran to the circulating library to pick up the latest Bahadur and Chacha Chaudhary. To be honest, he wasn’t upset that I lied to him; he was livid that I read the latest issues first. He then planted his doting mother at the circulating library for the next several fortnights. I never got to read the new issues first. He would invariably laugh at me the next day. I never understood then how he got the issues. Even schadenfreude used to be innocent in school.

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