Once upon a time, we, as children used to read Amar Chitra Katha comics, which were the window to our culture, heritage, mythology, religion, traditions et al, apart from the bed time stories told by our grand parents. There were neither cartoon channels beaming stories about Hanuman, Krishna and other deities and heroes nor the mega television serials based on historical and mythological characters.
Thus, we became familiar with Arjuna’s valour, Hanuman’s strength, Shrawan Kumar’s devotion to his parents, Meera’s faith, Akbar’s tolerance, Ashoka’s conversion etc. through these simple, yet brilliantly illustrated comics.
Then came history classes, where we learnt about Chhatrapati Shivaji, Rani Laxmibai, Rani Chennamma, Shaheed Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Netaji Bose, Swami Vivekananda and of course Gandhiji.
With the market economy yet to make its advent and Communist Soviet Union playing a key role in the bi-polar world, we remained ove
rawed with the legends and tales of heroism surrounding these leaders. There were hardly any young men of our age who did not keep posters or portraits of these youth icons in study rooms, along with inspiring quotations such as ‘Give me blood, I shall give you freedom’ and ‘Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached’.
But much water has flowed down the Yamuna in Delhi since then. It is now a unipolar world, a globalised and liberalized economy. Most of today’s youth, except those associated with some political or ideological outfits, do not relate to the idols we admired and adored. Cricketers, film stars, pop singers and even ramp models have replaced the freedom fighters and heroes of yore.
Times have indeed changed. These new age celebrities are the idols, icons and heroes of Generation X, but can they be role models? They may inspire an aspiring model, actor or cricketer, but can they exhort one to walk that extra mile, work that extra hour, extend that helping hand and become the voice of the voiceless, to think beyond oneself and the family for the society and the nation?
We are a young nation, with the highest youth population in the world. With religious fanatics, Maoists, drug peddlers etc. trying to wean away the youth in large numbers to their nefarious activities, it becomes important, nay essential that our youth have as role models contemporary youth whom they can emulate or at least draw inspiration from so as to play a constructive role both in their own and the nation’s lives.
In this regard, the capital recently witnessed the launch of Indian war comics by the Army Chief Gen V K Singh. The vision of the comic series is to create a modern mythology and folklore around our post-independence military heroes. If the stories of these war heroes enter our collective consciousness as a people, it is bound to inspire, uplift and revive the time honoured values of patriotism-of duty, honour and sacrifice – values that any nation need for its survival and growth. The comics launched so far are on the lives of Capt Vikram Batra, Param Vir Chakra; Col NJC Nair, Ashok Chakra; Maj Sandeep Unnikrishnan of Mumbai attack fame and Capt Bana Singh, Param Vir Chakra, the Hero of Siachen.
In a rare corporate gesture aimed at taking these war heroes to the computer savvy Generation X, Datawind, creators of the world’s cheapest tablet Aakash, have uploaded on their home screens, two such war comics.
“These ancient epics, ballads and war songs that inspire men to battle were all dying out. Now they will live on in a new digital incarnation”, says Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind.
More power to their elbow!
(The views expressed by the author are personal)