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Tinkle celebrates

V. GANGADHAR

Kids cheered as the 500th issue of Tinkle comics was released in a special edition.

Shashi Ashiwal

The afternoon of April 18 saw the St. Andrew's auditorium in Bandra, Mumbai, taken over by children in the 7-14 age group. They sang, danced and watched magic shows. There was pottery, mask making, tattooing and other classes being conducted. The day ended with a film show. And of course all the kids had finished reading the 72-page bumper issue of their favourite magazine Tinkle.

Started in April 1980, Tinkle had come out with its 500th issue (60,000 copies) which was sold out immediately. Publishers, India Book House, had to print extra copies in a hurry. Tinkle, a product of love, knowledge and entertainment, was the brainchild of Anant Pai (Uncle Pai to his fans) who was already associated with the Amar Chitra Katha series, which, in comic form, explained India's past glory and history to the younger generation.

Tinkle was an instant hit, recalled Pai, who according to Prime Minister Vajpayee was the most popular uncle since Chacha Nehru! To start with, Tinkle entertained children. The stories of "Kalia the crow", "Shikari Shambu", "Tantri the Mantri" and the simpleton "Suppandi" were pure fun. Initially, the staffers contributed the contents, but later on contributions flowed from the readers, who were all children. Along with entertainment, Tinkle also chose to educate. "Shikari Shambu" did carry a gun, which he fired at random but his `victims' were always taken to the zoo. "Kalia the crow" protected smaller animals and birds from the onslaughts of the bigger ones. Tinkle began to feature articles of general knowledge, picture quizzes and Maneka Gandhi wrote a column on environment and animal rights.

"We have to move with the times," explained Pai. "Children should be taught these issues from a young age. Amar Chitra Katha earned me a lot of respect, Tinkle brought me a profusion of love from children." Contributors to the magazine were told not to encourage superstition, but handle themes to encourage curiosity in the minds of children. Stories should be fast paced, logical and move towards a logical ending. And fun? Oh, Tinkle has that in plenty. "Suppandi" is the hot favourite among the readers. Today, the adventures of Pyare Lal and his wife Lajo are giving Suppandi a run for his money while the evil "Mantri" has not succeeded in getting rid of his plump king and usurping the throne.

Pai travels far and wide, presenting quiz shows and organising school competitions. He reads all contributions and letters from the readers and replies to them too.

Very soon, Tinkle will go online. India Book House is now working on a website for Amar Chitra Katha too. The magazine has come a long way from the day eight-year-old Elaine D'Lima, winner of the Amar Chitra Katha story-telling contest launched the first issue. Pai says he named the magazine Tinkle "because every time we held a meeting to decide the name of the magazine, the telephone tinkled. So that was the obvious choice."

And the tinkling has not stopped.

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