‘Pappu Tumhein Sunaoon Baat’
Prof Nutan Resutra
There is hardly anyone who has not seen comic strip sketches titled Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! In fact, these have been a part of our childhood literature taking us to strange worlds.
But people are hardly aware of the real life of creator of this world -famous series. The real name of Ripley was Le Roy Ripley, a name hardly liked or appreciated by his one -time employers, the management of Globe; a New York based newspaper. They insisted that Le Roy should use Bob as his first name. The reason? Le Roy sounded too much of an unathletic name and Ripley was a sports cartoon in the Globe! As such, Le Roy was not considered a sports-sounding name by the Globe; but yes Bob was. When we study how inventions took place, we find that almost all inventions happened accidently. The ‘invention’ of Ripley’s Believe It or Not also happened in a moment of desperation. In one afternoon of December 1918, ‘Bob’ Le Roy Ripley was feeling very bored as he had no fresh idea what to make.
In that moment of desperation, he put together some of the odd happenings from the sports world and put them in the form of a cartoon feature! It listed two men who had run one hundred yards in eleven seconds in a three- legged race as also the case of an Australian who had skipped a rope 11,810 times! Quite weird.
He thought of giving it the title “Champs and Chumps”; but as destiny had it: Ripley titled it, Believe It or Not. The spontaneous act of desperation cartooning was widely appreciated by the readers, most of whom bought the Globe only to enjoy those cartoons. As was expected, a large number of fan -mail poured into the office of the Globe taking every -one by surprise. As a result, Le Roy “Bob” Ripley was assigned the task of concentrating only those odd happenings; which he happily did. There is a social law which states that controversies result in fame. The cartoon feature that brought Ripley national prominence was captioned “Lindberg was the 67th man to make a non-stop flight over Atlantic Ocean” This caption enraged fans of Lindberg as everyone believed that Lindberg was the first man to make a non-stop flight over Atlantic. The result was that the enraged Lindberg fans shot 2,00,000 letters and wires to the Globe asking for correction and apology from Ripley. But then Ripley was not wrong either! What he did was, he had deliberately not used the word “Alone”. Yes, Lindberg indeed was the first man to fly non-stop over Atlantic, alone. Before Lindberg flight, sixty- six people had also flown over the Atlantic non-stop, but in pairs. Of those, 31 had flown in British Dirigible while others in German Zeppelin. But this deliberate dropping of the word ‘alone’ gave him national fame and his Believe it or Not entered each and every home. Daily research of oddities became highly taxing for him. For, he could read only English and his specialized job demanded knowledge of other languages as well. As luck would have it, he came across an Austrian by the name of Norbert Pearlroth who was a master of 13 languages. The result was that Ripley was at the drawing board while Norbert conducted his extensive research at the public libraries. All that was produced is a history now. In 1949, Le Roy Ripley appeared on a television programme where he elaborated upon the origin of ‘taps’. This was his life’s last appearance. A few days’ later, he had massive stroke and passed away, giving to the world his immortal legacy of Believe it or Not. A strange incident happened while Norbert was conducting his research in late 1940’s. He noticed that all American Presidents who were elected every 20 years since 1860; died in Office! The duo of Ripley and Norbert ran this item strip with the bold and ominous heading: “Who’s next?” and left blank the name of the American President who was to be elected in 1960. As destiny had it; this who’s next turned out to be John F. Kennedy who, everyone knows was murdered while in office! What a prophecy!
(The author is ex-Principal
GGM Science College, Jammu).