Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Chandamama-Childhood (Part-II)

One of the most interesting series of stories that appeared in Chandamama for quite a long time and which we enjoyed thoroughly was the Jataka Stories. These stories pertained to different previous births of Bodhisatva (Buddha). All the stories would begin with the sentence- ‘when Brahmadutta was ruling the Kingdom of Kashi, Bodhisatva took his birth as’- and go on with the new story. The picture on the first page would be the same showing Bodhisatva telling the stories to his disciples. The stories were not only interesting but carried lot of moral values which even children like us could appreciate.

Another series had all the Panchatantra stories told in a poetic form. The poems were very brilliantly crafted and accompanied by equally beautiful pictures. We could by-heart the poems just by reading them twice. Such was the simplicity of the language used!

Another interesting long series of stories was that of Vikram and Vethal (vampire). The picture of Vikram carrying Vethal on his shoulders, sketched so beautifully by Sankar, still remains fresh in my memory. Even the picture of Vethal slipping away and moving back to the tree at the end of each story keeps haunting in our memories. We were all very eager to read the last story where Vikram was supposed to fail in solving the riddle posed by Vethal at the end of the story. But alas! Just when we thought that we were approaching that stage, the editor made an announcement. He provided an opportunity to the readers to create their own stories basing on their imaginations and send them for publishing. The magazine must have been flooded with contributions. Eventually the Vikram Vethal became a never ending series of stories. In the process we never got the opportunity to read the final story in the Chandamama. Of course we quenched our curiosity by reading the same in some other publication.

Let me come to the general category of stories now. Before that I should also mention a series of independent stories written in the form of poems in the beginning of each issue. If I remember correctly, many of these were originally written in Telugu and translated to Kannada. There were a number of contributions from one ‘Navagirinanda’. We had by hearted the poems including the names of the authors. So much so that at the end of the poem we used to recite- Navagirinanda, Telugininda! Even that used to rhyme so well!

One of the most appealing stories written in a poetic form comes flashing in my memory:

One evening a father and his young son are going on a walk near a tank. The son finds a torn shirt on the banks of the tank. Obviously it belonged to a labourer who had left it behind while working nearby. He was expected to get back at the end of the day, take his bath and then wear the shirt again. The son tells his father that he would hide the shirt. He also wants to hide himself along with his father and watch the misery of the labourer on seeing his shirt missing.

The father tells him that one should not get pleasure in seeing the misery of others. On the other hand, he tells his son that he would place a one rupee coin in the pocket of the shirt and wait for his reactions. The son agrees and together they place a coin and hide themselves nearby waiting for the labourer to come back.

The labourer comes in the late evening and tries to wear the shirt after his bath. He suddenly finds the coin in the pocket. In those days a rupee coin was worth more than his one day wage. He understands that some philanthropist must have kept the money for him knowing that he was a poor man. He prays God loudly asking him to bless the person who had kept the coin for him without disclosing his identity! The father-son duo leaves the place with great satisfaction. Needless to say that the father had taught a great lesson to his young son.

Another story which impressed me very much went as follows:

Two friends Ramaiah and Bheemaiah (both middle-aged) have a plan to go on Kashi Yatra. They make all the preparations and leave their village one day carrying sufficient money and other requirements. In those days the Yatra would take several years to complete. In fact there was no guarantee that one would return safely.

After traveling for several days the two enter a village on their way. They find most of the village deserted. However, in one of the houses they find some people who were all sick. They come to know that the village was afflicted with a contagious disease and many people had died. Some of the villagers had also moved to far away places to avoid the disease and save themselves. On coming to know this, Ramaiah wants to leave the place immediately. But Bheemaiah says that he would rather stay there and try to save the people in the house by getting treatment for them.

Ramaiah refuses and wants to leave. Bheemaiah decides to stay back to help the family. He stays back and helps the surviving members of the family to recover slowly. He spends a portion of his money and brings medicines from the town for the disease stricken family members. The family members are much obliged and express their gratitude. Bheemaiah wants to leave now and join Ramaiah who had proceeded already.  But the family wants him to stay for some more time so that their health is back to normal and they can take care of themselves.

In the meanwhile Ramaiah, having proceeded further, reaches Kashi after several days, overcoming many difficulties on the way. He enters the Viswanath temple at Kashi and wants to see the deity from close. But in the big crowd he is pushed away and could not go anywhere near the deity. Next day he goes there again early in the morning; but is unable to go near the deity once again. But suddenly he finds Bheemaiah standing very close to the deity and offering his obeisance to the God. His repeated efforts to reach near the deity turn futile. He waits near the door to meet Bheemaiah and ask him as to how he could manage to reach so close. But Bheemaiah never comes out! The next day also there is repetition of the event with Ramaiah unable to reach the deity and Bheemaiah standing very close to the deity, but never found to be coming out!

Ramaiah returns to the village disappointed. He is also envious of Bheemaiah and wonders how he could manage that miracle. To his surprise he finds Bheemaiah at home. Bheemaiah tells Ramaiah that he could not visit Kashi as he spent all his money to help the disease stricken family. He had come back to the village after the family recovered in full. He is happy that he could help the family survive. When Ramaiah tells him that he saw him in the Kashi temple close to the deity, Bheemaiah merely smiles at him. Ramaiah is left wondering; but over a period of time he realizes the significance of helping the needy.

Being a children’s magazine, Chandamama always carried stories with a happy ending. But I remember to have read a story with a tragic end only once. This story left a lasting impression on me on account of its great theme. Let me recollect it here:

Somanna is a hard working honest young man. He has lost his parents and is living alone in his house. He is on the look out for a suitable bride for him.

There was a big banyan tree in his village. It was the abode for a huge number of birds and offered shade to the travelers in the scorching summer. It was also a meeting place for the villagers.

One evening Somanna was sitting alone below the tree. He suddenly finds a beautiful young woman in front of him. He speaks to her and is smitten by her. He is not sure whether she also reciprocated his feelings. They keep meeting for many days at the same venue. Ultimately Somanna gathers courage and conveys his feelings to her. She agrees to marry him subject to the condition that he would never ask her about her origin and background.

The marriage takes place and the couple enjoys the marriage-bliss quite for some time. A son is born in due course adding to the happiness of the family. One evening Somanna finds a group of people having some serious discussions standing near the banyan tree. He comes to know that the road nearby was being widened and it required the cutting down of the banyan tree. He feels very dejected as he is attached to the tree sentimentally. When he comes home he finds his wife in a very melancholy mood. Somanna tells her about the development; but he finds her already aware of it. He found her more sorrowful than himself.

Hardly within a few days the road-widening work starts and a team arrives to cut the big tree. Somanna sees the team start cutting the tree with their axes and rushes home to tell his wife. To his shock he sees her writhing in pain!  She now reveals to him that she was the soul of the banyan tree! Somanna understands the situation. He rushes back to the site and requests the team to stop cutting the tree. His request falls on deaf ears. Within a few minutes, to his horror, the tree is brought down. He rushes home to find his beloved wife dead and son weeping inconsolably.

The team tries to move the huge log of the tree to a cart to carry it away. They try to pull the log on to the cart with the help of ropes. But the log doesn’t move. Even their efforts to move it by an elephant fails. In the meanwhile Somanna reaches the spot with his young son. The child starts crying on seeing the log as if it sees the dead body of its mother. Finally it touches the log and calls its mother loudly. To the surprise of every one present there, the log moves!  The team is able to load it on the cart. The story ends at this point. It had a great effect on us at that impressionable age. The soul of the banyan tree appeared in our dreams for many a days!

I would like to end this article with a funny story which we enjoyed thoroughly. It went something like the following:

There was a young man who was very lazy by birth. He wants somebody to do everything for him. One day he comes to know that if he can manage to get a genie it would do anything for him on the spot. He prays God fervently and to his delight a genie appears before him suddenly. It asks for his orders. He orders excellent food for him which it brings within no time. Then he asks for a beautiful house. And lo! He finds himself in a beautiful bungalow in the split second.

The man is enjoying the beauty of the house when the genie asks for its next orders. It says that it doesn’t sit idle and wants continuous orders! The man appears to be in soup now. He gets an idea. He asks it to dig a well near his house. The genie is on the job immediately. The man thinks he can take rest now and goes to sleep. After sometime he is woken up by his neighbors. He finds that the genie had dug up a very big well. It was so big that the foundations of the houses nearby were about to collapse and the genie was still digging! He asks it to stop immediately and to start refilling the well.

As the genie was taking time to refill the well the man thinks fast about its next assignment. All of a sudden he finds a dog passing nearby. Seeing its bent tail he gets an idea! When the genie gets back to him, he asks it to straighten the tail of the dog! The genie catches the dog and holds its tail straight for sometime. It comes back to him telling that it had done its job. But when the man asks it to see it again, it finds that the tail was back to the original position! It tries again and again, but fails every time. The man asks it to keep trying and get back to him only when it is finally through. The genie is trying its luck even to this day!
A V Krishnamurthy

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