Have you ever had that feeling when you think that something that you do / love / are passionate about just doesnt fit in with society's view of what's acceptable and what's not and that you just don't fit in?
Last year when I travelled to China for the first time (something I had promised to write about though I never got around to doing so, forgiveness I beg of thee!) I was wandering through narrow streets filled with totally touristy stuff including fridge magnets and cuddly panda bears and every thing else that could qualify as a souvenir when I noticed a small shop sandwiched in between that seemed to have collectibles from various games and movies as well as soft toys. Before you ask, there's a massive difference between collectibles and toys!
Everything from cuddly panda bears to Angry Birds memorabilia (this was at a time when Angry Birds was barely spoken about in India) to Super Mario stuff to characters from the Halo series to Star Wars merchandise were available and I felt like a lil kid in a big candy shop to be honest. It was a treasure trove for someone like me and I only wish I had a larger suitcase that would’ve allowed me to buy the half a dozen collectibles that I wanted to pick up.
And then I saw them. Two collectibles about 10 inches tall from the ridiculously popular Dragon Ball Z series that my brothers were crazy about. It wasn’t a matter of choice really, I just had to buy them and I paid through my nose for those two given that I spoke no Mandarin and the shopkeeper spoke no English and so each of us had to resort to typing on a calculator as we negotiated on the price.
Go on, admit it, they do look awesome...
As I was leaving the country a couple of days later, I was stopped by the security at the baggage check counter and they indicated that they wanted me to scan my carry-on suitcase again. I was a little surprised and hoped that nothing was wrong as they insisted that I open the suitcase for them. Now the last thing I wanted to do was get held up by airport security in a country where the vast majority of the people don’t speak a word of English but I had no choice and I opened and handed the suitcase over to them. To my amazement, the guard at the machine took the two collectibles out (which he obviously recognized from the initial scan) and called out to the others on duty as he showed them what I was carrying.
Now the fact that he was laughing loudly put me at ease but I got the distinct feeling that they couldn’t believe that a guy in his mid 20s (you can stop rolling your eyes now) would come to their country and buy collectibles of characters from a famous cartoon. With a huge grin he asked me something in Mandarin which I obviously didn’t understand but I replied that it was for my younger brothers which I indicated by holding my palm by the side of me at my shoulder level and then at my chest level.
That he understood and while laughing he returned them to me as I realized that by now everyone going through the security check in had seen that the only Indian guy in the airport was carrying toys in his bag. Of course my brothers are as tall as me but I had to show that they were smaller than me to make the guard understand, sorry guys!
Now my brothers and I have been fans of everything related to comic superheroes (we got hooked back in the day when a very few Indians had even heard of the Avengers and the Justice League) to cartoons (He - man and G.I.Joe were the first shows to get us hooked in the years before cable television came to India) and I always thought we were in the minority for so long. Of course there has been a recent spike in popularity of superheroes in the Indian audience which can be attributed to the excellent Batman trilogy from the past decade as well as the big money maker The Avengers (third on the all time revenue list behind Avatar and the Titanic) and to a lesser extent the Spiderman trilogy. But nothing prepared me for Comic Con 2013 in Bangalore.
Check out the crowd watching the Cosplay competition in the left half of the picture
We went in during the second half of the second day and man, was it crowded or what? The place was jam packed and there were so many who had come for the cosplay competition (costume playing) that I couldn't believe my eyes. We even got a picture with someone playing the Joker from The Dark Knight where he was dressed up in the nurse's outfit with green streaks. As I stood there on the balcony and watched the crowd continuously trickle into what that was slowly becoming an ocean of excited humanity, I realised that almost all of them were all fans albeit those of various degrees. And that I fit in perfectly.