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Blistering Barnacles: A ‘Bong’ Connection!

We all know that courageous young reporter and adventurer Tintin is a world-famous cartoon character created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé (May 22, 1907 – March 3, 1983). Well, it may be conjectured that readers, as well as die-hard fans of Tintin in the eastern Indian Province of West Bengal were pained by the fact that the charismatic reporter from Brussels did not visit Bengal. However, a piece of information surprised Tintin’s admirers belonging to Bengal, on his birthday (January 10) in 2022. It has been reported that although Tintin could not come to Bengal, his Bong Connection was there in one of his comics! However, Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), the capital city of West Bengal, failed to secure its place in the comic series, The Adventures of Tintin. Instead, Chandannagar, a city in West Bengal’s Hooghly District and a former French colonial city in India found its place in this comic series.

It was a small incident that occurred during the start of the Adventure, when Hergé had taken the avid readers and followers of Tintin and his friends to Indonesian Sunda Islands, in ‘Flight 714 to Sydney‘, the 22nd volume of The Adventures of Tintin. There, Tintin would meet his greatest enemy, Roberto Rastapopolous. However, it was seen that troubles for Tintin and his companions started brewing up soon after their arrival at Jakarta. The name Chandannagar, it was seen, suddenly came up during the conversation between Tintin’s two friends: Captain Archibald Haddock and Professor Cuthbert Calculus (in the original version, in French)!

As per the original strip, the captain was struggling to explain the name of Jakarta to the absent-minded professor, who was hard of hearing, as well. The captain was also annoyed and abusive. Then, it was seen that by an odd stroke of rhyming, the professor heard the word Chandannagar. Unfortunately, the word Chandannagar was omitted in the English version of the story, as Hergé replaced it with Rangoon, the then spelling of the capital of the Yangon Region and the largest city of Myanmar, in order to maintain the rhyming sequence in English. However, Professor Calculus was seen mentioning Chandannagar in the original French version of the story. When Hergé wrote Flight 714 to Sydney (originally published on November 28, 1967), the name of Chandannagar was known as Chandernagore. Hence, Professor Calculus was seen using the word Chandernagore.

The question arises here: Why did the Belgian cartoonist suddenly choose Chandannagar? Experts are of the opinion that mostly French magazines used to publish The Adventures of Tintin at that period of time, and Chandannagar was a familiar name to the French as they had colonialised the Indian city 300 years ago (in 1673). Naturally, Hergé chose a familiar name. Apart from that, Chandannagar also got priority, as the word rhymed with was similar to other words used by Captain Haddock at Jakarta airport.

Image courtesy: Debojit Bannerjee & Saswata R Das

Tintin had another connection with Chandannagar. The Adventures of Tintin made its debut in a magazine, called Le Petit Vingtième, which was the weekly youth supplement to the Belgian daily Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century) from 1928 to 1940. During that period, a fortnightly French magazine, named Le Petit Bengali, was also published in Chandannagar. Indeed, it is a strange coincidence, and the coincidence does not stop here. Again, it may be stretched a bit further by mentioning that one can also notice that the word Belgian and Bengali are anagrams! Perhaps, that is why the Bengalis love Tintin so much. Furthermore, Bengali was the first Asian language in which The Adventures of Tintin were translated.

A Tintin fan in Kolkata, India

Admirers of Tintin celebrate his Birthday on January 10, as The Adventures of Tintin were first published on this day in 1929. So, the intelligent Belgian reporter turned 94 in 2022. On his 94th birthday, Tintin’s Bong connection was made public by a Twitter account, called Paperclip. In a series of tweets, the Paperclip made it clear how Bengal was mentioned in Tintin comics. It may be noted that the English translation of The Adventures of Tintin was there from 1952.

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