Symbols For Eternity

 After months of falling prey to a dissuading mind, and succumbing to an innate aversion for a daunting task, I knew that there was no escape from the inevitable; I had to clean out the garage someday, and sooner was the job done, the better. So, suitably attired for the occasion in a coverall and a hood, and armed with a broom, I set about my task with as much earnestness as I could garner. As I gingerly cleared out packages, bundles, bottles, wires and other motley oddments from the racks and shelves and got about dusting and cleaning the cobwebs off the same, I chanced upon a dusty but neatly wrapped bundle of books. On opening the wrapping off the weighty pack to check the contents, what I should find but a stack of comics, long forgotten in the mazy confines of the garage. In the bundle was an assortment of books that formed the very lifeblood of my childhood days, a precious collection of the greatest stories that my puerile fancies were built upon - tales of heroism and strength - the charms of which are not too jaded in my mind even as I find myself well past the threshold of adulthood. I flipped open one of the books, with the intent of having a cursory look at some of the pages which held so much fascination and excitement for me in what seems so far back in time now, but it is more to the number of events and changes that life has wrought in me rather than to the actual number of years that have elapsed, that I would ascribe that feeling. Now I enter the world that I held so dear once again, and I see the familiar figures again – too familiar, almost a part of me for so many years – the strong, lithe body covered tightly in that enviable suit; the shiny, square pistols at his waist which I so dreamed of owning, the super-fast draw, the mark of goodness, the mark of the Skull; the Skull Cave, the entrance through the waterfalls, the pigmies, Diana, Guran, Rex, Old Man Mozz, the famous treasure rooms, The Secret Vault, The Keela Wee Beach, The Jade Hut: the wondrous world of The Phantom - The Ghost Who Walks, The Man Who Cannot Die. Instantly, my mind hurtled back to those heady days of the past, and the images came in a flood, as in a reverie – of the way I waited in fervent excitement for the next Phantom comic to be at the stalls, the rush home with the precious item cuddled under my arm, and the fights with my brother over the right to read the comic first; the rush for the morning newspaper, just to read that small strip of a Phantom tale, ever continuing, yet never ceasing to fascinate and intrigue; of the beliefs that the Phantom could never die, and that bullets could not pierce his suit, beliefs that would not be dispelled by any arguments to the contrary. I felt some of that excitement of old stirring up in the recesses of my heart again, as if woken up from a deep slumber, as I passed on from one comic book to the other with furtive eagerness. Unknown to me, I was already squatting on the garage floor, as my mind floated deeper into the world I loved to wander in so much, as if I were on a low cloud, looking upon an aspect in which swarmed the heroes of my past, coming in a flood to greet me like playfellows once estranged in the labyrinth of life. Here is Mandrake The Magician, with his shiny blue hat, conducting another of his mystic magic shows, creating the most incredible images for his audience through his powers of “mass hypnosis”. Here he is again, being confronted by a thug with pistol in hand, and making my mind leap again when I see him turning the gun into a snake, which the thug throws away in fear!! My mind dwells for a few moments on the many exploits of Mandrake with his amiable yet incredibly strong friend, Lothar; and on Hojo, the cook, who is actually the secret chief of Xanadu, and also a tenth degree black belt in Judo.

Now I look at the cover of an old “Tarzan” comic, another of my unforgettable heroes, and my reminiscence is filled with the image of the adorable figure of the African forests; the familiar loincloth and those rippling muscles; the vivid image of Tarzan crying out “Tarzan Bundolo” over the body of a vanquished rogue gorilla, with the thick, dark forest in the background. Tarzan’s fight against the enemies of the jungle, his love for the jungle and its inhabitants, and his cry of victory, to this day, gives me goose pimples. I remember being overcome with dejection when I once read a story in which Tarzan was being strongly influenced by his fianc√©, Jane’s parents to quit the jungle and come to live in the city. Now I see Korak, the son of Tarzan, who was equal to his father in protecting the jungle. Korak reminded me of my school days, when Korak comics were a rage, and the way I secretly smuggled some into the classroom, to make surreptitious barters for more such comics with my fellow mates right in the middle of a class session. Our teachers themselves were addicted to comics in a no lesser way, and we had to be extra careful in making our precious exchanges without being noticed. In spite of the many precautions, however, a teacher did catch us once in a while, and when he or she did, the comics were duly confiscated, and those coveted gems were deemed to have been lost forever. The pages continued to flip on, and now Superman comes flying in at “super-speed” to greet me, with a tale that demanded the deployment of many of the extraordinary powers at his disposal: those of Super-Speed, X-ray Vision, Super-Breath, and of course, Super Strength. Even as a boy, I was conscious of the fact that Superman was always confronted with foes of almost equal power, and was often made to stretch his powers to the limits to emerge the ultimate victor, in course of which he was even driven tantalizingly to the brink of death when struck with the only weapon that Superman feared, the deadly Kryptonite rock.

Here comes Batman with his luxuriant cape, and his youthful and dynamic partner, Robin. They zoom off on their Batmobile, caper acrobatically in the jungle of skyscrapers of Gotham city, and pursue their immortal foe, The Joker. The Joker has joined hands with The Riddler and The Penguin, making Batman’s job of protecting Gotham city that much tougher. Adding to his difficulty is the necessity to switch identities constantly, from being the brawny and brainy crusader of the dark night, to donning the sleek garb of a corporate honcho in the day; as also in maintaining the secrecy of his identity from the world

More heroes, and more heroism, as I move on to revisit a tale of the gallant Bahadur, forever waging a lone war against the barbaric plunderers of the Chambal Valley; and Flash Gordon, in his fantastic space adventures, including his battles against his perennial nemesis in space – Ming The Merciless. It doesn’t seem too long ago that these heroes were the center of my life and any suggestion of them being unreal met with indignant opposition from my end. Every book that I opened, and every page that I flipped, seemed to reconcile me with a long lost friend, a revered idol from my past, with such constancy that I felt like what Alice must have felt, lost in the pleasures of Wonderland, and would not have realized that time was indeed flying by me, and the garage was still in a mess, when I was jolted back to reality by my brother calling out to me at the peak of his voice. I reluctantly let go of the precious bundle for the moment, in compulsive preference to more pressing matters at hand, and shut out the cascade of characters that would have continued for hours more, in the shape of the Fantastic Four, The Hulk, Spiderman, the Cowboy superheroes – Wild Bill Hickock, Jesse James, Roy Rogers; the mythological superstars of Amar Chitra Katha; The Adventures of Tintin; the list is virtually endless, and my thirst unquenched.

I felt the hardness of the ground I was sitting upon, and it felt harder for the realization that The Phantom, Mandrake, Tarzan, Korak, Superman, Batman and all the other comic book heroes have been weaned away from my life due to the demands of life and its circumstances, which dictate the survival of our species. Today, I realize more than ever, the value of Goodness, Honesty, Kindness, Affection, Bravery and all the great virtues that these heroes stand for, and I have been that much the richer for their company. Today, in a world where role models are so hard to find, and whatever and whoever we aspire to has so often disappointed, and so often been found to be flawed, I am eternally grateful to providence for bringing me (and undoubtedly millions more like me) under the influence of such enduring characters, whose tales of heroism and virtue have contributed immensely in shaping impressionable minds with the qualities of kindness, compassion, honesty, modesty, and above all, have helped strengthen our faith in all things good; characters who will forever remain the symbols of everything that is positive, and who are immune to all the fallibilities that plague our fragile real-life heroes of today. None of these heroes can ever die, as long as the world believes in virtue, and as long as virtue resides in us. Now I know why The Phantom is called the “Man Who Cannot Die”.


R.Hari Kumar said... [Reply]

First thing , i have become a fan of your writing .
Its more like reading a chapter from a novel - Interesting and very well described .
World would have been different , if they were real . I hope that people will take in the attributes of their heroes , rather than to forget them just as a comic character .

pramod said... [Reply]

great writeup dude.

Blogxter said... [Reply]

@Hari Kumar...
Thanks Hari. Its great to know that you like my post. Your encouragement will spur me on..thanks again

Blogxter said... [Reply]

Hi Pramod. Thanks a lot for taking time out to visit my site. And thanks a million for the appreciation. I really value it. Hope to see you again soon.

Amy and Arpit Mathew said... [Reply]

Hi! Enjoyed reading your piece and reminiscing about the good old Phantom comics. Many happy hours spent with them! God bless and keep writing

Blogxter said... [Reply]

Thank you so much Amy and Arpit. Feels good to know that you share my feelings. Will look forward to more visits from you.

Vee... said... [Reply]

the mere sight of all these pictures brings back nostalgic memories.. great writeup.

Blogxter said... [Reply]

Thanks a lot Vee, not just for the appreciation but also for sharing my feelings.

Priya said... [Reply]

This is my first visit to ur blog. Very interestingly u decorate each post. Each one is refreshingly nice.

Last month when rearranging our house I got our collection of Comics, games, books and drawings.

Phantom n Nagraj were my favs.

Do visit my blog n comment if u like..

Blogxter said... [Reply]

Hi Priya. So nice of you to visit my blog. I am glad that you too are a fan of Phantom comics. Will definitely visit your blog

Manoj Kumar said... [Reply]

ahhh...well recollected some of the phantom stories which i had read a long tym ago. ha ha i even had one book now. He he......

Love those stories and also ur post....

nice write

Blogxter said... [Reply]

Thank you Manoj. I am a "Phantom" fan myself, and these memories are indeed golden


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