How Uncle Pai started Amar Chitra Katha

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Mumbai:  Anant Pai, popularly known as Uncle Pai who started Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle Comics passed away at the S R Mehta & Kikabhai Hospital, Sion, yesterday at the ripe age of 81.

His 72-year-old wife, Lalitha Pai, with whom he celebrated his 50th marriage anniversary recently, survives him. Damodar Pai, a cousin of Anant, said, "Lalitha was his constant companion and pillar of support.

They were married for 50 years. In all these 50 years, they stayed away from each other for only a single day."

She was not in a position to talk to MiD DAY, when her husband's body was brought to their Prabhadevi residence at Shivalik building, around 9 pm yesterday.

His remains have been taken to the Shivaji Park crematorium by his relatives.

"A week back, he tripped and fractured his hip. He had to undergo surgery and had almost recovered from it, when his lungs and kidneys failed.

He spent eight days in hospital," said a grieving Suhas Prabhu, a close relative, who got him admitted to hospital.

Pai was born in Karkala, Karnataka to Goud Saraswat Brahmins Venkataraya and Susheela Pai. At the age of two, he lost his parents.

He moved to Mumbai at the age of 12 and studied at the Orient School, Mahim.
"His first love was journalism.

He was not interested in pursuing engineering. But his elder brother forced him to do it anyway. That is how he passed out from the University of Bombay's Department of Chemical Technology (UDCT).

But the day he graduated, he joined a magazine called Maanav in the 60s. This was before his marriage.

Later, he joined The Times Of India (TOI) where he was in-charge of the comics section," recalled his nephew Prakash Pai.

He was extremely concerned about the fact that Indians seemed to know very little about their tradition, culture, heritage or mythology and were wooed by British and American comics.

"When we met him on one Sunday morning, he simply asked us a few questions about Indian mythology. We simply had no answers to his questions, though we knew everything about Archie comics.

That was when he told us that he would start a movement to enable us to know about our own heritage," said Prakash.

Prakash added that he gave up his job at TOI and set up Amar Chitra Katha and was supported by G L Mirchandani of India Book House. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, Amar Chitra Katha sold 18 lakh copies per issue.

He also started Tinkle comics, and worked with well-reputed illustrators like Prabhakar Wairkar.

After that, he went on to start the Partha Institute for Personality Development aiming to mould characters of youngsters in the age group of 10-15. He also started a magazine called Partha for the same purpose.
 

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