tinkle digests and memories from 2007

Just some days ago, I was sitting in front of my towering bookshelf, wondering if I had some books in my childhood that shaped my life as it went on. There were many, of course, since we all truly are the cumulative results of the books and movies we see as children, but I didn’t want to find my favourite books. I wanted to find books that perhaps I didn’t give grand old titles to. Books that were never brought out to be shown to friends or books that I never set on the main shelves, but rather the books that I kept on the highest or lowest ones-out of sight, out of mind. Nonetheless, books without which my bookshelf and my life would not be complete.

Struck by interest and amusement, I got to my feet and traced the spines of the books on these unimportant shelves, letting my hand pick out ones that called to me. Odd book after odd book, yellowed, musty pages, torn covers, from years of being lugged around the country in trunks every time we moved, and the generations of hands that held them.

I created for myself a nice little pile, but the ones that stood out to me the most were my comic books; my entire collection of Tinkle digests stood dusty and proud on the top of my pile, and shuffling through the 20-odd books, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into the memories of incidents that moulded me into, well, me.

My tiny collection of Tinkles.

“Mummy, can I buy a book?” I’d ask, tugging at my mother’s shirt as we made our way onto the platform of the train that would take us to my grandparents’ house for the holidays.

She’d look down at me and sigh, adjusting her grip on my drooling baby sister in her arms. I knew what she would tell me. That I already had a lot of books, and that I was already carrying a bag filled with novels and diaries enough for more than twice the amount of days we were going for.

“Ask Papa when we stop walking,” she’d say, holding my hand tight and walking briskly, lest we get lost on the noisy, crowded platform.

I’d stare ahead, trying to find him following the coolie who held our luggage on his head with a balance I could not even imagine in my little 6-year-old body. I had tried often, to balance my books on my head. I was getting better at it but that was only because my face was a rounded square – easy to balance things on for fun. But this man held two suitcases filled with clothes and toiletries and food and diapers and whatever I had watched my mother pack the night before.

We’d stop where our compartment was meant to arrive and the coolie would be trying to bargain for a little more money, “…sir, we’ll put all your stuff nicely into the train also, if you give us this much more…”

I knew better than to interrupt my parents when they were bargaining, and sat down on a suitcase, rechecking my bag to see if I had all the books I needed. Of course I didn’t – I needed more!

“Arshia, careful,” my father would say when I began to swing my legs, seated precariously on a wheeled suitcase, and I would recognise this as the perfect entry for me to make my demand.

“Can I buy a tinkle, Papa?”

“You already have so many, no?”

I’d make a sour face and let out a long whine. Long enough to make my father reconsider, but not long enough for him to get angry.

“We’ll see, where’s the thela (cart, stocked full of magazines and comics and books that we’d find dotted all over the train station)?” he’d ask, not wanting to say no either, I’m sure.

I’d get up excitedly and point down the way we came, recalling all the ones I’d seen, and which one would be the best for buying a tinkle. He’d say ‘alright’ and tell my mother to go with me so he could keep an eye on the luggage on the bustling platform.

We’d weave through the crowd, me trying to speed up but not daring to let go of my mother’s side, what with all the stories of kidnappings and accidents I’d been warned of. We’d reach the thela and I’d plant myself on the side, a huge smile on my face, barely being able to see on top of all the books that were stacked up in front of my face. Glistening copies of new tinkle digests would glow in my face as the shopkeeper handed them down to my little hands, clouding my mind from making a practical selection.

The tinkle digest I ended up buying.

“Mummy, can I take two?” I’d ask, eyes downcast, clutching two copies against my chest, knowing full well that she’d glare at me and say no.

There were times when she gave in as well, but this was not one of those times. I’d stare at the books for what seemed like hours, whether trying to mentally read all the stories inside each one, or saying my goodbyes, I don’t know. Begrudgingly, one digest would be handed back, money would be handed over, and all my sadness would be wiped away by the thought of sitting in the train for an entire day, being lulled by the movement of the train over the tracks, watching all the villages and fields going by (paddy fields were my favourite). I feel like I should note, overnight trains didn’t always mean 24 hours, but the movement of the moon and the sun was enough for me to feel like it was an entire day.

I’d nestle into a corner of the blue berth, setting all my books in front of me; my Tinkle proudly taking the helm. And for the next hour or so, I’d immerse myself in the stories of Suppandi-the silly helper who messed up all his tasks, Ramu and Shamu-the mischievous twins who always got the better of adults, Shikari Shambu-the hunter who was scared of animals, Tantri the Mantri-the evil minister who failed in his plans to kill the king time after time, the longer stories sent in by older readers, and of course, the educational pages filled with facts and stories from the days long past us.

I never really realised how much I loved and retained those facts until I found myself telling my sister about things I had no recollection of knowing. It was only once I took out these Tinkles that I remembered a hot summer day in my grandparents’ house in Bhubaneshwar, when I was swivelling around on the chair in Nanu’s (grandfather’s) study, reading the Hand-in-Hand-With-History section in a Tinkle, marvelling at little stories about Gengis Khan, and the Black Death caused by rats. I was perhaps the only 6-year-old in my class who knew about the Bubonic plague.

History facts that I loved reading

If I could, I would talk about these memories forever. But this post has become long enough, and I think I’ve said all that I wanted to say about Tinkles, and about 6-year-old me reading them. So I’ll end it here; leave little Arshia swivelling around the pristine study, painting things into her memory that she would not recall how she knew, until she pulled a dusty stack of Tinkles off of her bookshelf and felt drawn to a digest labelled 2007.


Have you had any comics that made up a huge part of your childhood when you were a kid? Did you also like reading as a kid? I’d love to know what you think!

31 Comments

  1. Oh I love this post SO much. I often think about the fact that I sold / got rid of all of my childhood books after I got to a certain age and started reading different types of books instead because I really wish I still had them – I’ll never forgive myself for that! I had a beautiful bookshelf full of pristine books (I looked after them so well) from my favourite authors and when I got to a certain age and needed more room on my shelves for the older things I was now reading I was like hey, let’s just get rid of all my books! I really wish I hadn’t and that I still had them, even just to keep them in storage somewhere. Such is life I suppose! Great post Arshia .xx

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    1. Thank you so much, Chloe! I’m so sorry about your old books :(( I was in half a mind to sell a lot of my old books but my mom just bonked that idea right out of my head and I’m grateful for that. Hope your bookshelf keeps growing now! xx

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  2. So fun to read and also, little Arshia is just so cute! Reading on the train is really good. Although I’m also glad you stayed near your mom because it can be really really crowed in a train station!

    When I was a child I loved all the stories from the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. I also like the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

    But when I was 7 or 8 I got a children’s encyclopedia with pictures. I read that ‘book’ many, many times just from A ’till Z. I loved all the facts and the fact that that there was such a variety 😁

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    1. I really wish I could go back and meet little Arshia if only to give her a warm hug!

      Those are all such lovely stories! I haven’t read them myself but I have been wanting to for so long – they really are such classics!

      Encyclopedias really are so interesting when we’re children. It’s so magical to think of how we used to so eagerly seek knowledge when we were younger and there was no pressure about learning and remembering them what we read for exams, haha (that was definitely the case with me)!

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  3. Such a beautiful story to read, you write so well, Arshia and I only wish more kids would ask their parents for more books to read. I still have most of my favourite childhood books that I managed to carefully drag with me whenever I moved around. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 😀 Aiva 😊

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    1. Thank you so much, Aiva, you are always so kind! It really was only a couple of days ago that I realised that there are actually much lesser children who like to read, and that really is a shame. My younger sister, too, dreads reading but I keep trying to get her to read things that I hope she’ll enjoy. Maybe I should stop and let her be haha, but reading really is such a joy!

      It’s so nice to hear that you still keep your favourite books close to you – it really is a special connection! 😀

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  4. This is awesome, Arshia! I’ve never heard of Tinkles but it sounds like it holds a lot of memories for you. I was an avid reader as a child and unfortunately I don’t read as often now. I’m trying to get back into it though:)

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    1. Thank you so much, Sera! I think Tinkles definitely were particular to India, and yes, they certainly hold a lot of special memories for me :’) Ah, I relate with that so bad. I went from reading about 30-40 books a year to reading 1 or 2 when I started college, and now I try to stick to my reading goals to get that habit back! So good to hear that you’re trying too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You penned this story so beautifully, Arshia. Reading this brought back so many memories; I used to read a book series that’s similar to Tinkles, it was called “Adventure Box”, don’t know if you’ve heard of it. I would wait eagerly every week for their newest edition, and my dad would say to me, “bro, why do you even like reading that much!?” 🤣 Okay, he didn’t say “bro” but ah, those were good times.

    Thank you for this lovely post! It really made me smile :))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Faustina! That really means a lot coming from a very talented writer such as yourself! I haven’t heard of Adventure Box, but it’s so fun that you had something similar to Tinkles! Were they particular to Hong Kong?

      They really were the good times – reading without a care in the world, haha! I’m so glad this made you smile :’)

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    1. Thank you, Maryam, you are very sweet! I think Tinkles are particular to India – they definitely were a big part of my childhood and I’ll always treasure my little collection of memories :))

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  6. I love that your post went into a story, that was so lovely to read ☺️ I was definitely a massive reader as a child, more books than comics but I would read the occasional comic but like everything it was all about my mood 😅 It just have been so nice to relight the flame of memories by finding those comics again, I can imagine that being a very heartfelt post 😍 Wonderful post Arshia, how are you doing? x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Amber! I think writing about memories is the one thing that brings me so much happiness, so I’m very glad you liked reading this post!! Ahh, same, I was a book-reader too, and I think these Tinkles were the only major comics I read (apart from some Archie’s digests)! It really was so lovely to re-find these books and remember the good ol’ days, haha! ❤

      I'm doing really well! My online classes are to start very soon so hopefully, I'll still be able to keep up with my blogging schedule! How've you been, Amber? xx

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      1. Of course Arshia! I agree, looking back on happy times when I’m feeling sad never fails to cheer me up. Yes! I can imagine, I’m hoping to bring my childhood books down from the loft soon. Even just to run my fingers against the covers again will be nice 💓

        I’m so happy to hear that! Hasn’t summer passed so quick?! Are you excited for your classes to start again? I hope so too Arshia, but it’s okay if you can’t ❤️ I’ve been okay lately, good and bad days. I feel like the summer has flown by so quick that I’m just grasping for time when I need to realise that this is the time I have to relax not to stress myself by adding unnecessary pressure 😅

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  7. Such a well-told story! It’s truly a high-skill job, weaving a narrative out of any experience so far into the past 🙂 I have small memories of frequenting Green Park market, in front of Evergreen sweetshop, almost every other week, in quests to buy the Marvel and DC comics they sold on stands there. It was some Indian publisher who had struck a deal with the US publishers to sell these comics at low prices in our country in the early years of the 2000s, and that’s what got a lot of the latest titles at that street stall every week. The thick digests used to be Rs 90 and the thin ones were initially Rs 15, then grew into 25. I used to get Rs 10 worth of pocket money every week (or month, my memory fails me), and when I accumulated enough money I used to buy everything I could lay my hands on. Loud, bombastic, garish covers of sweating Hulks, savage Wolverines, bleeding Spidermans and soaring Supermans, it was a delight to read those books. Every trip to the market became an attempt to persuade my parents to purchase a comic (despite their frequency decreasing with the years and several issues pivotal to the storylines never reaching the stalls) and it was the best time ever. Gotham Comics, the Indian publisher, fell out of business years and years ago (probably because the deal was no longer lucrative, obviously it wasn’t, getting such hella pricey american comics so cheap into our country!) but they still somehow sell those SAME comics they used to more than a decade ago, with fresh copies of long-expired storylines, not a single issue new or updated. I go there still at times, check up on all the issues that I remember from my childhood, but still somehow never fade out of the pile they sell in a corner of that stall. And no, the reason isn’t that they’re just not selling for years haha! Who knows from where (or even from whom!) these comics keep coming from, continue getting reprinted and reaching the Green Park store. The bhaiya running the stall probably knows, but I never want to ask. Thanks for sharing your story, Arshia 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much, Udbhav! This comment is one of the loveliest things I’ve read in a while! There’s something really special about these memories attached to old books and comics because they probably influenced our personalities more than any other material things (that’s just a belief I happen to have, maybe that’s personal to me). My parents tried to get me into reading superhero comics when I was younger since they were big on Indrajal Comics and Diamond Comics; stories about Mandrake and Phantom and other characters I never got into but found very fascinating from afar! I wish I had gotten into it all because I have to live life knowing my grandparents and parents will forever be cooler than me, oh no. I remember, when I was 10 or 11, my grandmother opened a huge trunk full of thick, cardboard-bound digests of yellowed comics from when she and her siblings were younger, so safely preserved except for the inevitable yellowing and it felt like a treasure chest. I’ve kept them safely on my bookshelf and it almost feels like I’m keeping someone else’s memories safe for them.

      Thank you so much for sharing this lovely memory, and I’m looking forward to reading posts on your blog as well someday! :))

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      1. YES, those cardboard-bound books are the best!! Even my father’s kept so many of his issues bound and preserved safely. I doubt our generation’s going to keep that good care, but surely an attempt is worth it. Definitely, I agree with you- our personalities are largely products of those early influences. I adore Phantom, but I think we can safely say that generation’s going to be perennially cooler than us.
        Thanks for the blog motivation 🙂 It’s all in the works.

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  8. This was so… good. I wish I had a better word to describe it haha but I’m genuinely in awe. You have such a talent for writing, I felt like I was in the memory with you. Thank you for sharing it!

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  9. Such a beautiful memory you have shared here, Arshia! I could picture the shifting feet on the platform, the stolen glances towards the book stalls, the joy of getting your way and the elation of adding another Tinkle to the collection 🙂
    Much like you, I have a soft spot for Tinkle digest and the various characters from it. Shikari Shambhu, Kaalia, Ram aur Shyam, Supandi used to be my favourites. These were my gateway to the world of books and might just be the reason I fell headlong in love with reading 🙂
    Cheers & keep blogging!

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