India’s love affair with The Adventures of Tintin (1929 - 1976) by Hergé is a special one. Surely, we have all been in a position where we have snuck the books under our blankets with flashlights on, run overdue on our library borrowings, and even emotionally blackmailed our parents into buying the latest editions.
More than a story, Tintin runs like a legend, through decades and generations, as it equally touches the hearts of all those who make it through the books. While no book was dedicated to Tintin’s travels to India, we do see sparse visits to the country. A brief scene for Tintin in The Cigars of the Pharaoh, and Captain Haddock in Tintin in Tibet.
Somehow, the popularity of Tintin in India was unparalleled. With no real or direct connection, Tintin in India remained a story waiting to be penned. In fact, Hergé himself had said, “I receive a lot of mail from India. Here, in my office, are two letters from Calcutta. Now, what can there be in common between a boy in Calcutta and myself?”
While it may have never been written, Tintin in India is as good as real. An unknown artist in Goa in the 1990s designed t-shirts with illustrations close to the exact book covers. Tintin in Goa, as nonexistent as it was, seemed like a reality through these. Encapsulating all things Goa, the artist captures real life with alcohol at the beach on plastic tables and chairs, two-wheeler adventures, and the eclectic Goan fashion sense of the past.
Perhaps from a place of hope, the artist’s renditions bring about a feel of nostalgia –– of the times we raved about having read the newest Tintin, already eagerly waiting to get to the next one. Tin, Captain Haddock, and sweet little Snowy became part of our everyday vocabulary, and the will to set out on similar adventures was only lacking the way. Tintin in Goa may have stemmed from the same place, and essentially, does a partial job of making it a reality.
It is similar to Tintin in Thailand (1999), a parody of the Tintin series that narrates the author’s own tales. Funnily enough, it was written in French by a Belgian author, Baudouin de Duve, who wrote under the alias Bud E. Weyser (a play on the beer brand, Budweiser).
Tintin in India’s ‘what could have been’ shines through these works of art from the 90s and reminds us of how the adventures we so deeply invested ourselves in were a result of engaging writing, masterful illustrations, and a keen sense of wanting to be something larger than life. This Goan artist’s Tintin in Goa captures those very things, and allows us to relive a small part of our childhood - and who wouldn’t want to do that?
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