Obviously, I melted into remembrances of things past. Misspent youth, neighbourhood kids, gulli-danda, all of that. Not that I even know what gulli-danda is, mind you, but it sounds more sentimental than Catch-Catch. Anyway, we bought the set.
You probably shouldn’t.
Here’s why. When you look at your sepia-toned childhood through rose-coloured glasses, what you end up with is a massive metaphorical hotch potch. Which is what the Amar Chitra Katha feels like if you go back to it as an adult.
Close Encounters of the Dushyanta Kind
Ten pages in, Dushyanta has already put the moves on Shakuntala. And ditched her in a forest with promises of sending his troops to pick her up later. She raises their son as a single parent for one page until she finally decides enough is enough. Off she goes to confront her truant husband who, surprise surprise, repudiates her.
It’s a meaningful, timeless line, this.
When you deny what you know to be the truth, you deny yourself.
Of course, it also shares a panel with this delight.
Woman, I don’t know you.
The problem with reading Amar Chitra Katha as an adult is that you have more context to work with. My mind automatically supplies Dushyanta’s line with Samuel L Jackson’s voice from The Incredibles. Which, as you’d expect, somewhat decreases one’s Mahabharata immersion.
In any case, Shakuntala and Dushyanta spend a few more panels on the yesyoudid-noIdidn’t theme. Finally, she gives up and decides to leave, declaiming…
Dun dun DUNNNNN!!!
Six years too late, my poor naive lady.
As Shakuntala is about to exit stage left, divinity enters the picture.
As a kid, I accepted this without question; it was just the sort of thing that tends to happen to mythological types. Voice from the heavens interrupting child custody arrangements? Duh of course.
As an adult, though, my mind said Checkmate, Dushyanta! How are you going to wriggle out of this one?
Quick thinking was how.
Eight year old Manasi read this and celebrated – Hooray! Happy ending!
Significantly older Manasi read this and rolled her eyes – Very convenient excuse, Dushyanta. What if the heavenly voice had a sore throat that day?
In any case, the episode concluded with this homily…
Holy cats. Your dearest? After leaving her to flounder for six years in some godforsaken forest? AND you’re going to just randomly rename the boy? What? GRBLGBGBRLRGRRRLG.
Moral of the Story
All mythology has inconsistencies, stuff that seems farcical when viewed through the modern lens. That’s fine – it’s from another age. The problem here isn’t the mythology or even Amar Chitra Katha. In fact, the editors did a bang-up job of reducing a complicated story into something a child can parse. Thank you for that, Uncle Pai.
The problem here is revisiting the simplification as an adult. A psychologist named Jerome Singer said –
Mental life is a continuous effort at tracking sensory inputs, cognitively organising experiences, re-examining memories, and monitoring a continuous set of plans and anticipations and a variety of unfinished businesses which compete for our limited attentional capacities with the demands of steering our selves through a physical and social world.
Paraphrased, this boils down to a simple aphorism – Life is a continuous effort at scrambling your brains.
Once life has happened to you, you just can’t go home again. And that’s the problem with rereading Amar Chitra Katha as an adult. Your adult mind provides a much broader context within which to interpret the stories.
I still have a copy of Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree on my bookshelf. I wonder whether I should pick that up.