Sunday, December 25, 2011

Influence



My family nickname I share with a dog. I really do. Satyajit Ray, the legendary film director also translated Herge's Tintin comic book series into Bengali, my native language, during his stint as a magazine editor and he named Tintin's white terrier Kutush (Snowy in English, Milou in the original French). That's what my folks call me at home. Kutush. I once met an aging white pomeranian named Kutush at someone's house. I am sure there might be a lot of Bengali household dogs named Kutush yet I feel un-insulted. Incredibly!
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At this point, readers may be forgiven if they think of me as someone with some serious low self-esteem issues but I assure you that this is not the case. The name Kutush is also indicative of the youngest, which I am in my big group of first cousins, but I never feel burdened by the canine connection. If anyone ever needed proof of how much of a fan of Herge's comics I am, here's my calling card. I share my nickname with the Bengali translated name for Tintin's dog and I don't mind!
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It's next to impossible to have grown up in an urban Bengali family and not know about Tintin. I didn't even grow up in Bengal, have extremely limited acquaintance with Bengali culture despite my parents' sincere efforts and have hilariously inept Bengali reading abilities. Yet the boy reporter of a Belgian comic book series, written in French, then translated into English, the version familiar to me would exert an overpowering influence on me. In fact, I would so far as to say that it would define my life, at least the life I hope to live.
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Mom and Dad used to buy a beautifully drawn and coloured Tintin comic, ostensibly for my elder brother and then play sneaky hide-and-seek games with it to be the first one to finish it. My first memories of 'reading' are those of browsing through the spectacular imagery of my brother's and by default my parents' well binded Tintin collection with my sister, both of us significantly younger than our elder brother. My first knowledge of world geography, history and culture in exotic places like South America and China were through these comics. A lifelong interest in science & technology, travel, and as-yet-beyond-science phenomena like UFOs & yetis were concretized by the various adventures that Tintin and his friends found themselves in.
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I have read them all many times over and at one point had all their plots memorized too. Beautiful mansions, ancient mysteries, fascinating global locations, glamourous vintage cars, ridiculously funny jokes & situations, potent social messages on racism & corruption lived side by side effortlessly on those immersive pages. Even as I go to watch the 'movie' on the big screen today, I am mentally prepared to be disappointed. The only reason I do go to watch is that Steven Spielberg is involved, the person behind the single most memorable childhood movie of my lifetime, "Jurassic Park". Something may just come of it but even if does not, as seems likely, given the impossible standards I'll put the movie up against, it may provide a glimpse, a fleeting glimpse of that adventurous world.
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2 comments:

Kumar Bibek said...

I have never read Tintin. I loved Nagraj, Chacha Chaudhary and the other ones from Raj comics.

Kutush is a nice name :)

Roy said...

Chacha and Billoo were my favourites too. But I remember them to be Diamond Comics. Nagraj, Super Commando Dhruv - these guys were Raj Comics I guess.