Shaktimaan will punish you

Shaktimaan was India’s first television superhero and hence commanded a roaring fan following among kids. There was a time when the streets and parks would be empty and the kids all glued to the television, for their favorite superhero would greet them on the tube. After the highly engrossing epics of Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana and B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharata, never had any TV series come this close to silencing the deafening madness of kids. The same would repeat again when the BigB walked into our TV sets with KBC thereby emptying malls, theaters and even weddings. This post isn’t about KBC or the mythological epics but about our only desi superhero Shaktimaan. For the uninformed or those who slept through the biggest achievement of desi-TV in the late 90s, here’s a small refresher course. Apparently Shaktimaan was the chosen warrior against evil by the siddha gurus of a cult named Suryanshi. Now this mustn’t be confused with the Salman Khan in a fake He-Man look movie nor is it related to the BigB playing father and son in a Tamil remake. These sad-dudes(sadhus) were followers of the Sun-God and taught him kickass yoga that enabled him to dissolve his body in fire and revive himself. In short he possess Captain Planet like qualities to control the elements and fight evil. In a fitting tribute to Spiderman and Superman, Shaktimaan is a bumbling photographer for a news daily and can be rendered powerless by a evil crystal.

It was a time while in school, I’m guessing I was in VIIth that the following incident took place. While I was happily raving about Cartoon Network, unbeknownst to me the country was swept with Shaktimaan mania. Hindi superheroes were looked upon in those days and Cartoon Network was still in English! So while kids around were running like headless chicken and going gaga over the victory of Shaktimaan over Electric Man, my hep circles were lost in the latest episode of Johnny Quest. Our teachers would coax and plead us to use fountain pens hoping that they would help improve our monolithic handwriting. Hero pens were a immensely popular owing to their smart Chinese pricing and flooded the bookstores. Many used cheaper versions and you could tell a student’s pen by the ink smudge on their fingers and blots in their pockets. We’ve had many incidents of spraying ink and that have lead to our own versions of paintball, where the cleanest shirt emerged victorious in the end! It would often be hard to explain to the teacher how ones cheeks and scalp had ink sprays and later learning that Tide/Rin ki safedi doesn’t quite work like they show on TV. There was this one time when this guy was showing of a swanky 14K gold tipped Parker pen during the first recess as all the girls of the class huddled around him. Never after have I seen such excitement till Hrithik Roshan’s posters came into existence. The pen was acting like a chick-magnet and the girls were drawn to it like moths to the huge lights at weddings! Years later I found out that it wasn’t the guy or the pen, but an element called gold that makes women go crazy even if it was in the nib of a fountain pen!

Unable to bear the attention draw and his claims to the indestructible malleability
the gold-platted nib
indestructible malleability of the gold-platted nib, I dared him to write his name on the wall. In a bid to save his reputation and not appear like a sissy, he gave in and took the bait. If you have a gold-plated pen and don’t believe this tale then you are free to scribble your name on the nearest wall. I claim no responsibility for broken tips but that will atleast silence the Hercule Poirot in you. As expected the tip never stood a chance against our freshly plastered concrete wall and all I could remember hearing was the sound of a hawwwwwwwwww followed by bone-chilling silence. The once-upon-a-time chick magnet was now shattered and the dude went to bury his head in the desk, I was a back to being Mr.Popular, the recess bell had gone off and the next class had begun. In those days I had the conscience of a butterfly and wasn’t feeling even a bit guilty, not that it has improved any now. As I was happily paying attention to the board and taking notes, there was a a lot of whispering from the back. Turns out the pen didn’t belong to Mr.Bheja-fry but his refrigerator like looking buddy(let’s call him Whirlpool). The reason for the refrigerator analogy is because that would be the first thing that would pop in your mind if you were playing a word association game. The guy was huge both horizontally and vertically, was often quiet, had very few friends and sat in one corner. Anyone who has passed high school will know how chinese whispers work. I’m not sure what originated form Whirlpool’s corner-wala bench, but by the time the whispers reached me they had the words ‘mince’, ‘pulp’ and didn’t sound pleasing at all. Now if you looked like Whirlpool and were mad at someone for breaking your pen, then there’s a fair chance that you would mean those words.

With the intensity of these whispers increasing, it was a getting difficult to sit in class. The menacing stare that I got during the class change didn’t help things either as I began thinking of cool stickers to put on the
cast of my
soon-to-be-fractured hand
stickers to put on the cast of my soon-to-be-fractured hand. Those 80mins for two classes seemed like eternity and i even tried practicing my karate kicks in my head, but feared them being of any use against Whirlpool. The lunch bell rang and I darted across the hallway even before the teacher could make her way out of class, I guess she assumed I had a bad tummy. I wallowed around in the school ground and changed locations every 5mins fearing getting caught by Whirlpool, but my hunger got the better of me. I sneaked towards the classroom to get my bag and planed to eat my lunch and spend the day in the ground, hoping that Whirlpool would have cooled down by the next day. It was a relatively safe to goto the classroom, infact it was the safest place for all the boys would be playing under the trees leaving the girls to themselves in class. The girls in the class told me that Whirlpool was searching high and dry for me and had sworn to get even. Not the most comforting words you would want to hear while running for your life, but I gathered myself, packed my bag and left for a safer hideout. As I made my way down the stairs, I was accosted by Whirlpool and his refrigerator-looking friend(let’s call him Kelvinator) from another section, who were hiding below the stairwell. If I was petrified by the prospect of facing Whirlpool, I now had to deal with his friend with revenge in their minds. Whirlpool asked Kelvinator to drag me to the ground while he darted off in the opposite direction. My guess was that he went to the sports-room to get a wicket or a bat. If you’ve seen me, you’d know that I’m a tall lean mean machine and guys like Whirlpool and Kelvinator don’t need additional artillery to take me down. Mentally I had given up and had resigned to fate that even if one of them sneezed I’d collapse.

Whirlpool returned empty handed and I thanked the peon in my head for not giving him his bat/wicket, the anger in his eyes and the sweat on his brow however had me recite the Hanuman Chalisa like a zillion timesrecite the Hanuman Chalisa like a zillion times(it atleast felt that way)! He came closer while Kelvinator held me hard and lectured me on how bad I am and have no conscience or feelings, like how I ought to be ashamed for what I did and how miserable I’d turn out to be in the future. While I was suprised by his rendition of the gospel of goodness, I assumed it to be the lull before a storm. Many years later in college fights I’d use something similar so that the guy atleast knew the reason he was being beaten up for. Soon there was a crowd that had gathered and not one tried to talk Whirlpool into forgiving me. Probably I was so evil that secretly even they wished to see Whirlpool bludgeon my nose. Turns out that Whirlpool had not gone to the sports room but the canteen instead, and in his hands lay a pack of Parle-G biscuits(yes, I shall still call them biscuits and not cookies). He began munching them while mouthing words of wisdom and I was slightly amused to see a guy take his anger out on a pack of biscuits. In front of my eyes Whilrool was transforming from Darth Vader to Obi-Wan Kenobi, and I was no longer afraid of his fists for it seemed worth it. Nothing in the whole world could have prepared me for what was to come. From Obi-Wan Kenobi Whirlpool changed to Soorma Bhopali as he swore that I had incurred the wrath of Shaktimaan by upsetting the innocent soul of his young friend. Whirlpool and Kelvinator both looked skywards, invoked Shaktimaan and left me to my doom as they returned to class.Β  If it were you, you’d complain to an elder sibling, teacher, parent in that order, but who in the world invokes Shaaktimaan?

Turns out that Shaktimaan had partnered with Parle-G to market the biscuits and there was a TVC where in they photographer-guy ate Parle-G biscuits and transformed into Shaktimaan. Whirlpool and Kelvinator were among the million kids with an empty deep freezerkids with an empty deep freezer who were believers in this concept. Talk about brand placing and image marketing, master stroke I say watay influence err kidfluence! The crowd that had gathered dispersed soon after being disappointed, while I stood like a rock in disbelief. I tried hard to recollect the events and was still looking if it was a trick and the two fridges were hiding elsewhere. The lunch bell rang and I walked into class with my hair disheveled due to the minor scuffle. There was the same bone-chilling silence as I lived to die another day. I was the Subhash Nagre for I had managed to walk out alive after a supposedly-grim battle with a hot-headed refrigerator-looking-guy. Mr.Popular just got menacing now for I had seen eye-to-eye with the most burly and tough-looking guy in class. I guess Shaktimaan saved me that day, for had he not brainwashed Whirlpool, I’d have a disfigured nose today. Also as long as there are kids like Whirlpool around, kids like us will continue being popular! Our success is indebted to them I’d say! Whirlpool my man, If you are reading this then I apologise for your Parker pen!

Note to self: Never believe Chinese Whispers and always stay abreast with current affairs!

(Images Courtesy: bizhat and bettybl)