An Indian artist’s fan tribute to celebrate the 90th birthday of Tintin with a sketch of the popular comic character visiting Darjeeling and trying to catch the Toy Train has gone viral, and needless to say it has invited a flood of comments that express joy, emotions, and welcome messages in the Hills. The Belgian Embassy in New Delhi has posted the Tintin in Darjeeling sketch on its Facebook page to mark the 90th birthday of Tintin, a character who is a reporter-cum-detective, on 10 January this year.
Created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, Tintin was born in the year 1929 in a weekly youth supplement of a Belgian newspaper, with a full-fledged adventure comic series made of him later, making him an endeared character many years later too.
The embassy’s Facebook post with the picture of Tintin in Darjeeling signed by the artist, Mahafuj Ali, alias Mali, said, “Happy birthday, Tintin! On his 90th birthday, here is Tintin making a special visit to the Queen of Hills, Darjeeling in India. Last year, Indian artist Mali created a fan tribute to celebrate Tintin’s birthday in traditional Bengali attire in front of the Howrah bridge in Kolkata. This time, the Bengalis in West Bengal suggested Tintin to go further north to explore Darjeeling.”
The sketch has Tintin running after the heritage Toy Train of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, with his faithful dog Snowy, so as not to miss it, while the other popular character from the comic series, Captain Haddock, is holding out his hand for Tintin to hold from the train.
Also seen behind are the twins Thompson and Thomson falling down while running after the train. Two more characters of the comic, Bianca Castafiore and Professor Calculus, are also seen inside the train with the all famous Mount Kanchenjunga looming over the Hills in the background. Comments like ‘Tintin my favourite character riding the famous Toy Train of Darjeeling’ could be seen flooded on the Facebook posts and shared posts, while others wrote messages to welcome Tintin to Darjeeling.
On the other hand, the Facebook page of the artist, Mali reads, “Last year, brought him and all his close friends to cut the cake in Bengali attire in front of Howrah Bridge. After that, they were surprised with the love and affection of the people. So they decided to stay here and travel to other parts of Bengal. Every Bengali suggested him to go to Darjeeling and that’s how it is.”
“It came as a complete surprise to me. When I first saw the sketch, I felt that maybe the creators were planning an adventure of Tintin in Darjeeling, but the truth later dawned on me and Tintin being here, even for a brief period alongside the Toy Train with the majestic view of the Kanchenjunga behind, was a welcome treat for me,” said Subha Rai, a local resident.
Another local resident in his fifties, Mahesh Tamang, said, “I grew up reading Tintin and he has been my most favourite comic character with me having all the issues that was released then. The sketch did provide me an excitement of seeing not only him, but my other favourite character Captain Haddock in Darjeeling.”
‘Mirror to see the world’
Meanwhile, the artist, Mr Ali, 33, said Tintin has a permanent effect on 90s’ children.
“He had carved a niche in their minds from childhood when we saw him fighting with the bad through all the stories. In an era without the Internet, there were limited shows on Doordarshan, and Tintin was the mirror for us to see the world. He went to the extreme corners of the world for his friend, explored the moon, flew the plane, steered submarines and did everything to be a role model,” Mr Ali said from his present base in a town near Sydney in Australia.
“As he and all his friends like Snowy, Captain Haddock, Prof Calculus, Thompson and Thomson, all became so close to me and many others like me, we started to believe that they are real persons and our small minds used to always wonder why they are not visiting our land. But of course they will come to Kolkata airport and then they will of course go to other parts of Bengal. Because they are so close to us, everybody admires them here,” added Mr Ali, who originally hails from Krishnanagar in West Bengal.