I know I shall be jeered at for this, but I have almost never liked train journeys when I was a kid. I could hardly sleep, sitting on rexin was uncomfortable, I loathed at the concept of strangers making vague attempts at befriending me (often babytalking to a ten-year old in the most irritating of ways) and then, there was the familiar story about train toilets.
My parents, intelligent creatures that they are, found out a perfect way to bribe me. They used to buy me Tinkle digests. These were fatter than the usual Tinkles, and had a selected collection of stuff over, say, a year's worth of Tinkles. At that age there was hardly anything more lucrative to be bought from, say, Nagpur Railway Station to lure someone to not sulk over a long train journey, that too at a surprisingly affordable rate.
No, Tinkle didn't shape my childhood the way Anandamela had, but it definitely did capture my imagination over years. Even now, as I'm a ripe thirty-two, names like Suppandi, Tantri the Mantri (uncannily similar to Goscinny and Tabary's Iznogoud series, as I was to find out later) and Shikari Sambhu make my lips curl in a very familiar smile. And then there were stories from round the world, Amar Chitra Katha-style biographies and mythology, truckloads of general knowledge and plenty of fun activities. The more I grow up the more I realise how good a companion Tinkle had been for an Indian child in the 1980s: the generation that grew up without internet and with only Doordarshan and sparsely informative newspapers. It was informative, it was character-building: and most importantly, it achieved all this while being fun.
Old-timers might have noticed that I've left out Kaalia the Crow from the list. It was intentional, since it deserves a special mention. For the ignorant, Chamataka, the smart-aleck jackal and Doob Doob (I loved the pun on the name) the moronic crocodile plan up to play foul, mostly attempting to have rabbits called Keechu and Meechu, or occasionally a deer called Shonar (whatever doubts I had about the involvement of a Bengali ended here) for dinner, only to be thwarted by the wiles of Kaalia. When I saw Tom and Jerry for the first time it was oddly reminiscent (remember, I was introduced to Kaalia before Tom and Jerry).
Give me some sunshine, give me some rain... :(