Pages from the comic
Pages from the comic

Lounge Loves | Amar Chitra Katha

The latest 'Amar Chitra Katha' comic is about the dairy don

Utterly butterly Kurien

Several stories are folded into the new Amar Chitra Katha comic Verghese Kurien—The Man With the ‘Billion-Litre’ Idea, about India’s best-known milkman.

There is the story of the bright student who joined college when he was only 14 (the accompanying thought bubble says: “Will I make friends? All these boys are much older than me!"), studied dairy engineering in the US while pursuing metallurgy and nuclear physics, was forced by bureaucratic intransigence to live in Anand in Gujarat, and typed out a resignation letter every other week. There are the stories of the dairy co-operative movement in India that had already taken root in that region and preceded Kurien’s efforts to streamline and improve milk production, of the birth of the Amul brand (Nisha D’Cunha, the wife of advertising professional Sylvester D’Cunha, suggested the tag line Utterly Amul that was refined to Utterly Butterly Delicious Amul; Eustace Fernandes designed the Amul girl); of the launch of “Operation Flood" to ensure that milk flowed in every Indian household that could afford it, of the establishment of The Institute of Rural Management Anand.

A tribute to Kurien’s singular dedication and management skills, the beautifully illustrated comic is on expected lines, down to the personal touches that humanize the public figure, such as Kurien meeting his future wife Molly and declaring that “I’m not going to Anand till I’m married to her" and Molly taking care of the floral arrangements ahead of a visit by prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The comic even includes redundant reminiscences by his daughter, Nirmala, and R.S. Sodhi, the managing director of the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd that is behind Amul.

Yet, two panels take the story beyond an utterly reverential tribute to a reminder of the context within which Kurien lived and worked. Kurien meets the Union home secretary L.P. Singh, who asks him: “Why aren’t there more Anands in the country?" Kurien replies: “Because nobody wants them." Singh replies: “Don’t worry. I will speak to the other ministers about this." And Singh does. Although this is a comic about Kurien’s remarkable achievements, it makes a bit of room for the others who, like Kurien, faithfully carried out the Nehruvian vision and animated the poet-prime minister’s dream to “bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India".

Verghese Kurien—The Man With the ‘Billion-Litre’ Idea is available in bookstores for 50.

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