Tag: Phantom

Phantom, my dream lover!

The masked Phantom on the back of his horse Hero, with his tamed wolf Devil following closely on the tow. The skin-tight costume showing off his chiselled body and the mask covering, what seemed to me, a very handsome face. He lives in the forest in a fictional African country Bangalla and fights the poachers and the criminals. The crime lords don’t know whether he is for real or supernatural, he’s fast, he’s stealthy, he never shows his face, he dwells in Skull Cave. His punch leaves a deep impression of the skull on his enemies face. His many names – “The Ghost Who Walks”, “Guardian of the Eastern Dark” and “The Man Who Cannot Die,” runs a chill down their spine.

I grew up reading the comic strips of Phantom in the Bangla daily Anandabazar Patrika. As soon as I would get back from school, I would first grab the paper and read the comic strip – to see how Phantom punished the bad and protected the good. In Bangla Phantom was Aranyadeb, protector of the jungles. He was also known as Betal. Anandabazar would carry one strip every day and we would eagerly wait for the day after to know what happened next. There would be two comic strips running parallelly – Aranyadeb and Jhadookar Mandrake or Mandrake the Magician.

Phantom or Aranyadeb in Andandabazar Patrika

Aranyadeb or Phantom and his many adventures had me hooked. He was not just a fighter of the evil he was a great lover as well, effortlessly romancing his beautiful wife, the wavy-haired Diana Palmer. Though he never showed his face, or maybe because he never showed his face, I was completely in love with him. He’s my first crush, my dream lover! I envied the beautiful Diana who would melt in his arms. When in college I wanted to get curls like her, but alas my straight hair wouldn’t hold the curls.

Phantom is the only superhero without any superpowers. No bat sense or spider-sense, or high tech gadgets, his intelligence and strength are enough to defeat even the deadliest enemy. Perhaps that makes him the real Superhero!

With his lady love Diana

But, unfortunately, over the years, Phantom’s popularity has waned. Though the comic is still available, he’s not as popular as Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man or even Hulk. He doesn’t belong to the Marvel Comics franchisee you see.

The Phantom,  an American adventure comic strip, was first published by Lee Falk in February 1936. The series began as a daily newspaper strip on February 17, 1936, followed by a colour Sunday strip on May 28, 1939; both are still running I believe. In 1966, King Features stated that The Phantom was being published in 583 newspapers worldwide. At its peak, the strip was read by over 100 million people daily. Falk worked on The Phantom until his death in 1999; since then the comic strip has been written by Tony DePaul.

Well, but who reads newspapers now. Kids today are not excited about comic strips as our generation used to be. As a result, Phantom lost out to his glitzier Marvel and DC counterparts. A few screen renditions of Phantom were not as successful, probably they couldn’t capture the charisma of his humanity, the very essence of his strength.

No matter where you are Phantom you will forever be my real Superhero, a fighter and a lover who’s second to none!

Colours and flavours of the black & white days

Excerpts from WhatsApp post

Black & White Westin or EC TV, chilled lemonade with ice cubes from 165 litre Kelvinator refrigerator & a loud telephone that brought the house running towards it the moment it rang. Yes, there was a time when these were the only household gadgets (if I may term them so), that came with a huge aspirational value. If you had all these three items at home, you could consider yourself to have arrived in life. There wasn’t much to aspire for, except maybe a scooter. Owning a car – an Ambassador or a Fiat was not very common in those days. Only very few affluent people had a car and the rest didn’t even complain about not owning one. That was the world I grew up in!

I remember smiling proudly after my father brought home black & white EC TV just before the Asian Games, Asiad 86 was it? I was very little then, had no understanding of sport but would watch the games with the whole neighbourhood anyway. As ours was one of the few houses in the neighbourhood with a television, next-door neighbours would drop in everyday to watch the games. My parents put extra chairs in the drawing-room, spread a chatai on the floor to accommodate as many people as possible. Neighbours and friends were more than welcome to come over watch the Asian Games, or Chitrahaar or weekend movies later. Television was not 24X7 then. We would switch on the TV and wait for the legendary Doordarshan opening tunes and for the programmes to follow. Our TV watching hours were rationed of course. We were only allowed to watch cartoons and a few shows that our mother thought apt. I would strain my ears from the study table, sometimes peek through the curtains, trying to catch a glimpse of Chitrahaar or weekend movies that mother would watch with neighbourhood aunties.

Black & White TV with its entire paraphernalia
Image courtesy India Uncomplicated

Any talk about TV is incomplete without the antennae, fixed on a tall pole on the rooftop. It was a common sight to see somebody perched on a tree moving around the antennae while somebody would be screaming out of the window, “It’s clear now. No, no, turn it left, little to the right.” That was us trying to catch a better signal for the television! The TV did not come with a remote then, but with a stand or a trolley and a bulky wooden TV cabinet with shutter. Once turned off the shutter would be closed and sometimes covered with an embroidered cloth.

In those days, people would often borrow a bottle of chilled water or ice cubes from our good old Kelvinator, placed on a stand with a fridge top, and the handle of the refrigerator wrapped in a towel. Neighbours sometimes left a bottle of water in the fridge to chill. They would drop in often to make or receive calls. The telephone was generally kept in the corner of the living room, carefully covered with a crocheted or embroidered piece of cloth. My mom would entertain neighbours with tea and snacks whenever they dropped in to watch TV or make a call. Our next-door neighbours would drop in after dinner and stay back till late waiting for their daughter, studying medicine in Delhi, to call. The concept of privacy was somewhat different then; nobody would bother to leave the room when someone was making or receiving a phone call. Maybe in that world we were warmer, generous and more open. We had fewer qualms about reaching out to people.

I grew in that world, cherishing the orange Parle G lozenge or Poppins, happily blowing the bubble gum and occasionally indulging in Five Star or Double Decker or Amul Milk Chocolate.  Maggi was the most sought-after fast food and evening snacks were muri makha or chire bhaja or some such home-made stuff. Pocket money was always restricted to five or ten bucks and always accounted for. We devoured on Phantom, Mandrake, Archie’s, Tin Tin and Chacha Chaudhary. We also read Famous Five, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and later Sydney Sheldon. I remember when I was in school, Ananda Bazaar Patrika carried a comic strip of Phantom (in Bangla of course) that I would religiously read every day. The amazing world of Phantom and his beautiful wife Diana!

Seems like yesterday. I can still hear the phone ring and the faint melodies of Chitrahaar. I can visualize my sisters and me rustling around in our velvet maxi skirts. But then when I came across a WhatsApp message ‘on some things our generation can identify with’, I realized it’s been so long, and we have left so much behind!!