By Moumita Ghosh:
Calvin and Hobbes has been a high point of my Sunday newspaper reading ritual for as long as I can remember. There is laughter galore every time I come across the strip which includes Calvin’s mild crush on Susie to Calvin’s scientific inventions and philosophical sermons to the adorable Hobbes, who is the former’s figment of imagination, and who has always helped me, to put it in Watterson’s words- “gain perspective”. So, imagine my delight when I received the Tenth Anniversary Book from a friend, on my birthday. This article brings out the various issues which Watterson portrays in the book and how!
There’s Too Much Team Spirit.
The introduction of the Calvinball strip effortlessly portrays the inner landscape of a six-year old Calvin when he is faced with the imposition of “manhood”, the kind of “manhood” which could be achieved only by playing baseball at recess. Calvin, on the other hand, would rather ride the swing and the teeter-tooter.
The strip reminded me of Tony Porter’s ‘A Call To Men’ where he is quoted as saying- “I can remember speaking to a 12-year-old boy, a football player, and I asked him, I said, ‘How would you feel if, in front of all the players, your coach told you were playing like a girl?’ Now I expected him to say something like, I’d be sad; I’d be mad; I’d be angry, or something like that. No, the boy said to me — the boy said to me, ‘It would destroy me.’ And I said to myself, ‘God, if it would destroy him to be called a girl, what are we then teaching him about girls?’
Calvin signs up for softball anyway to, as he sums it up to his father, “stop getting teased” by Moe. The conversation between Calvin and Susie the next morning perfectly portrays how particularly harsh we are to our boys as well, as we constantly dictate them to ‘man up’. The last panel just seals it!
Your heart goes out to Calvin where he finally decides that he cannot handle “too much team spirit” and is consequently dubbed a “quitter”.
How Come You’re The One Who Goes To Work And Not Mom?
Although things have changed much in recent times, this strip rightly points out that how raising a child and doing all the housework (labour of love, if you will) which is almost always carried out by a woman in our society, involves as much “stress and aggravation” as a job which requires one to step outside the contours of a household although it is not always considered so.
Another Typical School Day?
Neil Gaiman writes – “I’ve been making a list of the things they don’t teach you at school. They don’t teach you how to love somebody. They don’t teach you how to be famous. They don’t teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don’t teach you how to walk away from someone you don’t love any longer. They don’t teach you how to know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. They don’t teach you what to say to someone who’s dying. They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.” Bill Watterson seems to share similar views which he brilliantly sums up in his strips.
It’s A Lot More Fun To Blame Things Than To Fix Them.
Sheldon Cooper’s brand of sarcasm might tickle your funny bone but Bill Watterson’s brand of the same hits home. The wagon rides are where Calvin is both at his philosophical and sarcastic best. This strip is a personal favourite for the allegorical slap it places on the faces of our conditioned existence besides giving a shout-out to rise up from our warm armchairs and try to make a difference. Particularly pertinent too, in a society where with a facepalm or a slight shrug of the shoulder, everything from – “Iss desh ka kuchh nahi ho sakta” to “Yeh sab toh hota hi rehta hain” are phrases, much used, against a wider backdrop of wars, rapes, legal imposition of articles such as IPC 377, farmer suicides and much more.
It Will All Make Sense When We Grow Up.
The adventures of Calvin and Hobbes during summer, particularly the wagon rides, are possibly the most colourful strips of the lot and provide a wonderful depiction of nature. In this regard, it is interesting to note that even for people who choose not be indifferent, environmental issues are seldom talked about. Environmental information is just a bunch of stuff to be mugged up with callous indifference and promptly produced on examination sheets or vociferously voiced in school or university debates. Newspapers to political organizations would rather talk about issues which they consider to be “sensational”, issues that would sell or fetch the organization votes. Poor Calvin hopes to make sense out of it when he grows up. But it never makes sense, not in a world where Deepika Padukone’s cleavage makes it to the headlines and the state of the dolphins in the Ganges, do not. A native American quote perfectly sums it up for us – “Only after the last tree has been cut down./Only after the last river has been poisoned./ Only after the last fish has been caught./ Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”