Anant Pai, 81

'Uncle Pai' launched India's comics industry in 1960s

Associated Press
Saturday, February 26, 2011

Anant Pai, 81, a comic book writer whose colorful adaptations of Hindu mythology have been cherished by Indian children for nearly half a century, died Feb. 24 at a hospital in Mumbai after a heart attack.

Affectionately known as "Uncle Pai," he is credited with launching India's comic book industry in the 1960s with his series "Amar Chitra Katha" - or "Immortal Picture Stories" - chronicling the Sanskrit epics Mahabharata and Ramayana as well as Hindu folk tales and legends.

Mr. Pai meant for the series to be an educational tool. He was prompted by watching a quiz show on which Indian schoolchildren were unable to answer questions about Hindu mythology despite knowing Greek mythology, colleagues said.

"He believed the best way to communicate an idea or value to a child is through stories," said Reena I. Puri, his longtime editor at ACK Media publishing house.

In 1980, Mr. Pai began publishing his wholesome children's series "Tinkle," giving the country its first Indian comic book characters living in modern times. The series, which like "Amar Chitra Katha" is ongoing, deals with topics of science and general knowledge not covered in the ancient Hindu texts.

Mr. Pai wrote his comics in English and excluded any slang, Puri said, because he worried children were not learning the language properly in schools.

"He wanted comics to become a medium accepted in schools," she said.

Survivors include his wife, Lalitha. The couple had no children.

© 2011 The Washington Post Company