It was one of those lazy summer holidays during my tween years when I first discovered Asterix.
I had finished my Nancy Drew even before we got off the train and had already memorised the Tinkles that we had bought at the railway station. The vacation that year was in one of those nondescript towns in some corner of Kerala, Trikerripur or something and I was bored to death. I was lolling by the window and tearing leaves off the tree when Shashi maama handed me a large comic book from his cupboard, and with a tilt of his chin, told me to try it. Very hesitantly, took it from him. The pictures were too cluttered, and there was too much text in the talk bubbles. But then, this did seem to be a better option than stripping a tree bare. So I sprawled myself on the bed and started to turn the pages. Asterix in Switzerland. They had to literally drag me down for dinner that night.
I had only devoured three books from his collection and by then it was time for us to leave. I made puppy-dog eyes and tried to get Shashi maama to offer the comics to me, atleast one for the road. But no. Those were his treasured possessions and no manipulating child was going to get him to even lend those precious comic books, ones he had lovingly collected over the years and lugged across the country throughout his transfer postings. I sulked all the way back home. But over the next few years more vacations happened and I managed to read and reread the entire set. And though I didn’t get all those puns back then, I knew that I was hooked. For life.
Update: The Original Collection. Yellowed, dogeared, loved.
Many years later, I stood in front of a wall of comic books at a colleague’s house in Oslo and thumbed through his well worn copies of Asterix in both French and Dutch. Treasures from his childhood. And over dinner my Norwegian colleague and I bonded over that Gaul. Asterix had helped to break both the ice and the language barriers for us.
When Shashi maama died, his wife packed up all their things and moved to another town. She gave away a lot of stuff, some out of necessity and some, just because she had lost the will to live. No, don’t look at me that way. But yes, I did wonder if that pile of yellowing, well thumbed through comics was part of that give-away list. It wasn’t. She sent over a Guy De Maupassant, she sent over sarees and beautiful blue baking dishes. She sent over DVDs and rotimakers. But that pile of Asterix? Never, she said. That’s his soul in there.
Last Friday, as usual, I woke up to my Twitter timeline. Someone had shared a link to an Amazon offer. The entire Asterix box set was at a 94% discount at Rs.999 ! It has been in my Wishlist forever, constantly mocking me with that five digit unaffordable figure. I rubbed my eyes and pinched myself and checked again. It was true. Thank god for fast 3G, I completed the order right there on my phone. A thousand bucks well spent at 6.09 am. But by the time I had put out my announcement tweet for the benefit of others, the offer had vanished. It was back to a reasonably discounted Rs.11999 again. What followed was a weekend of anger and frustration. Amazon sent everyone an email cancelling the order because it was a pricing mistake. But goof ups happen and they happen again for the best. This arrived on Tuesday.
Finally. That two decade-long dream has come true.