Regional languages in India are going through a rough phase. Our country is focusing on the ‘global language’—English, and not working on enriching its own diverse indigenous linguistic spectrum. Local schools of different states don’t offer enough regional language courses and most teach in English medium. In a situation of this sort, youngsters are not able to understand the importance of their respective mother tongues.
In such times, ‘comics’, the favourite form of ‘literature’ for most children, has come ahead to the rescue of Indian languages. Children, as well teenagers, are mostly fascinated by comics and when these comics take a regional turn, there is nothing better for the local kids.
There are several famous comic book writers and cartoonists who work in regional languages. Narayan Debnath’s Baatul the Great– could ward off bullets, stop trains, run through concrete walls, hurl military tanks in the air and have a whale for breakfast. Baatul, essentially, was a Bengali child’s Superman. On the other hand, Mayukh Choudhury introduced Agantuk (a humanoid extraterrestrial creature, who grew deadly claws at will), who was similar to Wolverine from X-Men comics (and movies), but was created more than a decade earlier.
V.T Thomas, also known as Toms, a cartoonist from Kerala, created Boban and Molly, (12-year-old twins) who presented childish adventures and pranks as well as contemporary, social and political satires in the comic strips. It is also said that Toms influenced the way a Malayali read magazines –from back to front– as this comic strip would appear on the back pages of the Malayalam Manorama weekly.
These cartoonists present the impact which can be created by comics on social and educational consciousness levels of children as well as teenagers. This artistic way of creating awareness about the regional dialects is disappearing in recent times, which needs to be reinstated for saving our vernaculars from getting drained out.
There are several Indian comic book publishers focusing on Hindi or other regional languages. Publishers such as Diamond Comics, created the very popular Chacha Chaudhary (an old man who solved his problems with common sense, but with a touch of humour), while Radha Comics published Shaktiputra, featuring a character of the same name, who is very similar to RoboCop.
Recently, Tinkle Digest, in their November edition, introduced ‘Mapui’ the wing star hailing from Mizoram’s Aizawl. Also, with Comic-con India expanding its horizon to non-metropolitan cities, more of local and regional language books are finding their way into the mainstream comic business.
A quote by famous cartoonist, Dr Seuss explains the power of caricatures: “Words and pictures are yin and yang. Married, they produce a progeny more interesting than either parent.” This is what we need to take advantage of to develop an awareness of our local dialects.
Comic books such as these are not only enhancing the niche of regional languages but also enriching the vernacular. Such efforts to use comics as a medium of expanding the flow of regional languages amongst children is a very gratifying idea.
“Reading regional language comic books is helping students excel in academics. These comics fascinate youngsters, compelling them to learn and read their local dialects,” said Priyamvada Rastogi, regional language editor of Tinkle Digest, while in a conversation with NewsGram.
Language has its own discourse and, in the same way, the hundreds of Indian dialects also have specific characteristics. Comics are one of the most interesting ways of expanding regional languages across the youth of this nation. We should explore this spectrum not merely for entertainment, but also for educational purposes.