Bantul The Great
I think about him and I go back to 1986 when for the first time I came across Bantul the great – a truly magical comic strip for a 9 year old. ‘How is Bantul’ is not a proper question to ask anyone of my generation or the one that followed— the question should be how does it feel to be a part of a generation that read the strip in shuktara or in books?
In the strip Bantul is having breakfast with 80 eggs and a bucket of coffee while his nephews are trying to irritate the pet ostrich.
It will not be difficult to answer, because he was our hero with all the other heroes from the west. Along with the call to the world of Phantom, (Aranyadeb or Betal in Bangla) with the secret mission to check Diana Palmer in the golden beach, there was another who used to take us away. He still takes us to a strange world where most of the people wear dhoti-kurta, where only Bantul (literally means a short man, but ironically he is tall, stout and muscular) wears an orange coloured tank top and black shorts. There are two naughty and knotty children (his nephews) around to give him trouble. They wear T-shirts and shorts. Bantul has a pet ostrich Uto (from the Bangla word for ostrich utpakhi) and pet dog Bhedo. He has a bicycle, which has the wheels of road rollers. And there are always gangsters who wear western outfits. Whenever they attack the township, Bantul is called for to save the place. With one soft touch he can destroy any mischievous resistance. With one kick he can destroy an army tank. He feels ticklish when someone puts the barrel of a gun on his belly or back. Bullets touch his chest and fall. What does he eat? He loves sausages! His pishima (paternal aunt) prepares Biriyani sometimes but he needs a lot, so that occasion does not come very often. No one knows about the parents of Bantul.
The world of Bantul creates a parallel reality before the Bangla speaking children, they start loving Tintin or Asterix together with Bantul.
Bantul’s creator Narayan Debnath turned 90 this year. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award for children’s literature in 2013.