Sense and Sensibility

Supriya Newar is a Kolkata-based author, poet, music aficionado and communications consultant

Sense and Sensibility

Just the other day, the childhood hero of millions who has remained forever young turned 95. I’m talking about none other than the reporter Tintin of course and his ever-loyal Snowy. Back in the day, devoid of satellite connectivity, this Belgian reporter was a worldwide recourse to adventure, travel, exploits and victory, solving murders and mysteries from the day he embarked on a train journey from Brussels to Moscow.

Tintin, together with his gang, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, the Thompsons and Bianca, were the OG globetrotters. They made it everywhere - from America to the Amazon, from the Soviet Union to the Sahara, from India and China to Tibet. Not just to different countries and iconic locations, the duo even audaciously made it to space in the 50s, whereas Armstrong set his first steps on the moon only in 1969!

Not very surprisingly, given his global following, Tintin was soon translated into hundreds of world languages (110, to be exact), including Hindi, Malayalam and Bengali. In fact, Bengali was the first Indian language in which Tintin appeared and to date, come Durga Puja, every other ‘Facebook’ account from Kolkata, dutifully shows Tintin at a pandal, dressed in a ‘panjabi’. It is believed that Herge would get several letters from Calcutta and profess a desire to visit the city. It continues to be a popular nickname for Bengali boys and the city boasts an eponymous restaurant called Tintin and Brussels Club.

‘Tintin Comics’ were never taken blithely. They were given away as prizes at school events, wrapped as precious birthday gifts, read and re-read until the dog-eared copies were passed down as family heirlooms and most surprisingly, despite all the expletives that Captain H so charmingly used, they never disallowed impressionable minds to read.

What makes this fictional series tick and cut across cultures and sensibilities? Yes, the artwork was undoubtedly brilliant - detailed yet simple. Yes, it quenches the human quest for adventure. Yes, every character that Herge created, from the slapstick twin cops to Captain Haddock with his infinite appetite for liquids, was both entertaining as well as endearing.

But surely, it is hardly believable that a boy reporter with his pet dog, who, unlike Superman, is devoid of any superpowers and unlike Bond, lacks fancy gadgets, can effortlessly switch geographies just on the strength of his wit, courage and goodness and can embark on such glorious adventures. And yet, that’s exactly what he does.

Much before globalisation happened, Tintin was the universal, global, good samaritan. Much before storytelling became a catchword on ‘Instagram’, Herge captivated us with his storytelling. Much before activists took centre stage, Tintin and his terrier went about climbing mountains and swimming seas for justice to prevail.

Sure, Tintin doesn’t date. He never gets married. Never actually file a report. Never ages. Never gets greedy. And hell, he never even dies. But those are minor details that even our adult selves are quite happy to overlook because sometimes it is worth overlooking minor quibbles when a redheaded, ageless hero can set you on adventures that your very sensible self could have never had.

The only sensible thing to do is greet them with a loud cheer of ‘Blistering Barnacles’!

Author Supriya Newar may be reached at, Instagram: @supriyanewar and Facebook: supriya.newar

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