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Of Doga in the dusty season, and hoping to find Chacha Chaudhary again

If you don’t know who Doga is, you should be ashamed of yourself, particularly if you know Batman and claim to be patriotic. Doga, as the name suggests, is no ordinary human being.

columns Updated: Jun 17, 2018 10:16 IST
Aarish Chhabra
Aarish Chhabra
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Doga comics books,Nagraj,Raj Comics
Having debuted in 1992, he is perhaps the only bona fide anti-hero with a not-so-clean image among all Indian comic-book heroes. (Photo: Raj Comics)

Let me start with everyone’s favourite sentence in Chandigarh for the last two days: “In my __ years in this city, I have never seen such dusty haze; it’s horrible, OMG!” So, when there’s dust in the atmosphere and it’s suicidal to get out and breathe the air, what do you do about it?

I simply hid in my house, as you must, whenever there is such a calamitous occurrence. If you work day shifts or are into physical labour, my sympathies are with you. But the sepia tint of the world, which I could see from my air-conditioned bedroom’s window, made me switch to nostalgia, also known as the last refuge of a man who cannot find a subject in the news that hasn’t already been written about extensively.

After some opening and reopening of boxes and memories, I finally found my own sepia treasure — a lone Doga comic book I still have from the dozens I’d rented from a neighbourhood store and never returned.

If you don’t know who Doga is, you should be ashamed of yourself, particularly if you know Batman and claim to be patriotic. Doga, as the name suggests, is no ordinary human being. He is a vigilante whose superpower is his ability to communicate with dogs. The dogs work by his side to combat crime as he patrols Mumbai via its sewers. He fights crime to alleviate and control his anger for the pain he suffered from criminals in childhood.

Having debuted in 1992, he is perhaps the only bona fide anti-hero with a not-so-clean image among all Indian comic-book heroes. His real name is Suraj, and he is an orphan whose cruel past has made him cynical and brutish, yet obviously idealistic and enraged against the entire System.

He is, sort of, a Kejriwal-type character but with a more tragically elaborate back story and a socialistic superpower. It’s funny how things come back to us, and then we connect them with what’s holding our interest at the moment. You must also know that Doga has four elders — Adrak Chacha, Dhania Chacha, Haldi Chacha and Kali Mirchi Chacha, all ‘uncles’ named after food-flavouring agents for some unexplained reason. These four betray him and try to kill him in one of the comics, under the influence of a larger enemy. Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental. My hate for Anurag Kashyap, though, is real, for not making the Doga movie he promised.

In the box, I also stumbled upon a half-torn Nagraj issue stuck to the back cover of the Doga one. Nagraj is a hero from a time when mixing technology, mythology and religious motifs was back in fashion, politically and otherwise, around the late 1980s.

Nagraj often seems inspired by Spiderman. (Raj Comics)

From scaling buildings with ropes formed by live snakes on his command, to using the snakes to snare the enemy, he also has the kind of back story that only an Indian mind can come up with. Some of his powers might remind you of that child called Spiderman, but you must stay patriotic and claim that we came up with them, just as we invented the aeroplane and plastic surgery. The snakes are microscopic and live in Nagraj’s bloodstream. His venom is the most powerful in the world. And he reveals some recycled new powers every once in a while.

Ideally, he should be our Supreme Leader, because Nagraj does not just project but actually uses his powers, including snakes that work on his command, to eliminate bad people and make the world a better place. Note: Every time there is a plot to kill Nagraj in the comics, it is real, actually.

I looked further in the box but could not find any Chacha Chaudhary, the iconic character now being used by a political leader who is comically seeking cult status. Chacha-ji is a do-gooder created by Pran, the legendary artist who passed away in the seminal year of 2014 when this leader assumed power.

I was looking for older issues of Pran’s Billu and Pinky, too, from times more innocent. Is this how the world works now? Should we just look for times more innocent by escaping into such comics, avoiding even the more complicated Doga and idealistic Nagraj among them, and ignoring the haze outside that envelops everything? If only we could.

The writer can be contacted at aarish.chhabra@htlive.com; he tweets at @aarishc

First Published: Jun 17, 2018 10:16 IST