Friday, October 3, 2008

Mama Stores

“Good morning ma” I said, conscious of the time difference.

Instead of the bleary, sleepy voice I expected, Amma said in chirpy tones “Good morning kanna, You know what happened yesterday?”

I wondered which of my aunts had committed what sin. Or maybe the bai was playing truant. Or was Appa up to some mischief?

Amma went on to describe what she called the brilliantest bloodless coup of this decade. Yesterday while buying vegetables she casually happened to notice that the vendor was wrapping coriander in a page from some comic book. Further inspection revealed it to be Indrajaal comics. Amma jumped, coaxed, cajoled and bought off the vegetablewalli’s entire stock of coriander wrapping paper. Back home she was in her own world of childhood reminiscences and nostalgia, Phantom, Mandrake, Flash Gordon and the ubiquitous Henry. I nodded ferociously in agreement. “Brilliant” I screamed into the phone.

Twenty more minutes of less mundane topics later I was back in my own world and wished I magically found my own piece of nostalgia wrapped around some rotten coriander. ‘Gokulam’ would be found only at Mama Stores (No one knows the real name, that’s what all of us called it). In a corner of this western Indian island Mama Stores was the sole link to Tamil Nadu, selling exotic kizhangus, aromatic kapi podi, and all other paraphernalia required to please the good Tamil Gods and the fat Tamil priests. While parents queued to buy Kumudams and Vikatans, I would jump up to get the magazine. For some strange reason, mama hung Gokulam from a clothesline high up. For an hour after we returned home, feeling like exiles in a strange land with bags full of strange Tamizh goods; I would be absorbed in Gokulam; reading pen pal’s letters to each other, enjoying the illustrated tales, fables and episodic stories. Of all that the magazine yielded I delighted most in the stories of king Jayabalan. Written by the witty J Vasanthan they revolved around a fat, foolish egomaniacal king and his more foolish ministers. I was too young to get any political satires that might have been planted in the stories but at that age I thought naming the minister of communication ‘tholaipesi’ and the defense minister ‘kavasam’ the height of satire. As I grew up and drifted off into wider literary circles, Gokulam took a backseat. On my acquisition of a bike, Amma sent me far and wide to shop for Tamizh goods and Mama Stores lay ignored.

Today that part of my childhood came and hit me, making me miss home all the more. Of the twenty days that my unforgiving schedule allows me to go to India, I must somehow find time to say hi to ‘mama’ and see if Gokulam still exists. That thought alone brings a wide smile to my face.


maami said...

Hey some one here too likes Gokulam!

Liberal said...

The mention of Gokulam brought so many happy thoughts! I wonder why the mama hung it from a clothesline

Viral Doshi said...

hey did not undertsand many of the things for the most obvious of reasons.
but the way it was put was good ... can we have something for general people... or mebbe something for GUJJUS!!!

Elusive said...

good read..
is this the Mama stores wich is whr i live?

chocoliciousgal said...

*sniff* (ok maybe that was a tad too much :D) ..but I still think Gokulam is amazing...and even Mandrake and Phantom (yea 've actually read that stuff as well courtesy appa, thatha and chitappa :) )
I miss home. (even the local roadside bhajiwaali :) )

maxdavinci said...

wo gaaaaad you also like gokulam!

baloonita baggy is my fav name from a story called 'fat is beautiful', where she being the fattest woman in jayabalpore wins a beauty contest!

also if my memory serves me right the other ministers were Ganabadi,Ayalaan and arivaali.

and for yor gujju frnd lets also talk about Pran's comics like chacha chaudary, Biloo, Pinki Channi Chachi and Raman.

BUt then the juggernaut for all of em is Tinkle and the other offerings fromt eh amar chitra katha. Uncla Pai rawks and thats the reason it still stands tall!

heck! I should do a post on this!

Coconut Chutney said...

Me also gokulam regular! shit, does that make me oldie-mouldie like you guys too? :P But yea, my fav series was the same as maxu's (WO MY GAD!) the one with the fat king and the nakkal ministers!

swatimala said...

gokulam....even i have heard od tht magazine...ur story reminded me when i used 2 read tinkle as a kid

buddy said...

@maami: yay!

@liberal: must ask him...strange really

@viral: sorry viral bhai...will try to be less iyeristic

@elusive: mama is in 52 no? i think after the road on which 72 is...

@chocoliciousgal:go home! your ticket!

@max: baloonita baggy rocks!
jai baggy!
tinkle rocks!
amar chitra katha rocks!
amma says chacha chaudhry is sub-standard and wouldnt allow me to read it, so i get a perverse cheap thrill out of it!

@coconut chutney: duh! did u even read my post?
and who u calling old? (clutches heart dramatically)

@swatimala: u always had more books than me :( im going to sulk

sthitapragnya said...

Wo Gaad! I really don't remember reading Gokulam, for some god-forsaken reason.
No one mentioned 'Chandamama'. My mom used to make me read it in Telugu. Lovely stories. And yea it had the pen-pals section too. Loved it, I say.
Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha, et al - Bootiful ma! Used to nag my grand parents to buy me the newest edition! Suppandi, Shikari Shambhu et al - geniuses I say! Chacha Chaudhary, Saboo from Jupiter - Waah! Pran comics were indeed out of the world!
I wonder if we can find online versions to these comics!

buddy said...

really strange no one mentioned chandamama...i loved the way it was so indian...
and vikram betaal in it..always wondered when the last story would come...

Vivek said...

nostalgia of every kind I see here.

Elusive said...

yeys yeys! u want me to pass on your hi's and bye's, hugs and kisses??

padmaja said...

Gokulam! I remember..
Chandamama, Tinkle,etc are still around, I guess. But not so popular. Now I make sure I gift Amarchitra Katha to my friends' kids! A losing battle with those ninetendoes and cartoon network.. but I try...

RukmaniRam said...

ooh. gokulam used to be my favorite too! I never found it in dilli though. and i never never warmed up to champak. pak!