Saturday, February 25, 2012

Time Travel with Tintin

‘How was it ?’ I had asked my eleven year son as  we walked out out  the multiplex after watching The Adventures Tintin.
‘Loved it !’, he had replied with a grin , ‘Can you get me all the comics, please ! you have read them all, haven't you  ?’

It had taken some convincing to get him interested in the blond boyish looking character who had been my favorite comic book hero since I was his age.

The crown jewel of my comics’ collection, Tintin had made his way up on favorite list. Herge’s illustrations would take me to the far away lands – Africa, Tibet, Middle East, America and even to the Moon!

‘How about we read them together?’ I had suggested. 


A pile of Tintin comics lay in front of us. I had ordered several of them from Amazon.  There were a few from my childhood collection - these masterpieces were still clad in the newspaper jackets that I had put on them to save them from the rampage of time.

‘Careful’, I  said as my son unwrapped the Jacket  to reveal the colorful front page of Tintin and the Picaros – the hilarious plot that was set amongst imaginary  Banana republic’s of South America.  He settled down into the couch diving into the land of General Alcazar.

The yellowing newspaper jackets lay on the floor. I picked up one which was almost brittle with age.
“Times of India Sunday, June 15, 1986” said the fading letters on the header, just above smiling faces of Kapildev and Ravi Shastri  who were popping a bottle of champagne.  

I carefully unwrapped other  newspaper jackets  - they were all  within a couple of years.

‘Scooch over ‘ I nudged my son from my favorite spot on the couch and settled down with a cup of tea and twenty five year old newspapers.

‘I thought you were going to read Tintin with me …’ , my son complained.

But I had already set out on a time travel that took me back more than twenty five years – when I was almost as old as my son.  


I don’t read newspapers. I think that they are the best way to ruin your morning. I believe that if the news is important - it would always find you.  Today, news from a Sunday morning about twenty five years ago had found me.

“End for Ron , Blonde for Mikhail predicted” , the international  news section had a piece covering an astrologers  prediction  that Ronald Regan would resign over Iran arms scandal and Mikhail Gorbochov would fall in love with a 19 year old  air hostess.  ‘Most Astrologers predict that next year would be disastrous ’ the article concluded. ‘Not much of a change there‘, I chuckled. 

'Can you turn off the TV please ?' my son requested, his eyes glued to the comic. The TV was showing a documentary on Tibetans and their struggle to get freedom. I turned it off and placed the remote on the coffee table.

My attention drifted to the small section in the Sunday newspaper that said “Today’s TV”  with the Sunday morning programs that I used to wait an entire week for.  The listing was next to an advertisement for black and white television sets.  Mickey and Donald show was at 10 AM, followed by the kids soap 'Ek do Teen chaar' and then the celebrated Rajani at 12:15 PM.

My eyes would be glued to the black and white television showing programs ranging from Mickey and Donald’s show to the feisty Rajani – the vigilant housewife on a mission to fight against social issues under a semi-comical setting.

The Sunday Feature Film was V Shantaram’s  Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje – which I recalled  even after twenty five years. It had been a painful movie to sit through at that time with its unending string of dances. 

“Last ‘Rajani’ today” declared an article just below the listing that said that Mudra Communications would not be making any new episodes of the celebrated TV serial. The last episode of Rajani at 12:15 pm.

I sat up excited. I still remembered that Sunday afternoon very clearly ! My mother had not stopped complaining  about the end of her favorite TV program. "Why do they stop the good programs?' . "They should privatize the TV broadcasting", my dad had quipped in. 

The time travel was getting real . It wasn't an general day from the past that was reading about. It was a day that I could relate to now. A day that I had memories about !

A quick glance at the weather section which was just under the TV listing – it was 43 deg C (110 F)  in Delhi. I cringed recalling the hot June afternoons. Tar roads would burn and almost feel soft under the shoes due to the heat . A blast of dry westerly winds , or Loo blowing from the deserts of Rajasthan could almost vaporize you.


The economic section had news about Reliance Industries setting up a new company for a massive petrochemical project in Hazira, Gujrat. 

The company was to be named Reliance Petrochemicals. The company went on to become a household name in India and played a key role in shaping up Reliance Industries into an industrial behemoth. The owner of the company is now the second richest person in Asia and ninth richest in the world.

Scattered around the pages were advertisements -  relics of commercial art with amusing copy writing. "Visit before or after marriage and regain health vigor and vitality", declared the advertisement of the celebrated Sablok Clinic - made famous but the wall graffiti advertisement campaign along the railway tracks of  Delhi.

A huge quarter page advertisement of Siva Computers was filled up with a rate card of PC's  with different configurations. The state of the art AT-386  was priced at Rs 1,40,00 (~$3000). 

'Times have indeed changed', I thought, as I looked at the advertisement with an amused grin. 

'How about some news ?', I opened the newspaper to peek into the inside pages. 

This section was relatively well preserved and I shifted my attention to the headlines sprinkled across the pages.  

I was Amazed by what I found there !


I could not believe that these headlines were from a newspaper that was twenty five years old. These headlines could pass as "News" even today.

Israel, Palestine, India. Pakistan, Kashmir .. the dates had changed but the stories were the same.

'Uneasy calm in Lhasa', said another headline - that talked about the unrest in Tibet. 

'Wait a minute .. didn't I see that on the TV just now..' , sat up flicking the TV on. The program was still on - throwing light on Tibetans and their struggle to get freedom.

'Perhaps the times have not changed that much after all ...'  I sighed as I fixed my gaze at the television which was showing interviews related to the 2008 Tibetan unrest which had ended in rioting, looting and killing.


‘Hey !  I thought you were going to read Tintin with me …’ , my son complained as he saw me watching the television. I switched the television off and turned my gaze towards the stack of Tintin comics on the coffee table. "Tintin in Tibet" was on top of the pile.

A smile spread across my face. Colorful images of Tibet and Himalayas that that Herge had conjured in the comic book flashed in my mind - the monasteries, the levitating monks, the colorful kites and  the snow clad landscapes. The images were in stark contrast to the fossilized reality. The fossilized reality that had not changed after twenty five years.

I picked up the Tinitin comic, stretched out next to my son and dived into the land of Tintin. I was happy that things had not changed there as well.


Varsha said...

That was a quick read. It took me way back,and brought back long lost memories of black & white TV and everyone being glued to the TV sets with the few programmes that we had. Interestingly ALL the programmes had a social message. Tintin was everyone's favourite collection!Thanks for memories of happy times.

Bhaiya said...

Thanks to the old newspapers you seem to have broken Eintstien's code n traveled back in time. The gud old days of comics, black n white TV and the Sunday serials/ movies, which we all waited for the entire week. Do read TinTins again with Siddhant which you promised him.

rachna said...

Prithvi how wonderful that you put newspaper covers on your Tintins. loved the line: newspapers are the best way to ruin your mornings. my time travel log: cycling back from school (that i used to hate) to find that Target had arrived and Detective Moochwala was waiting to be read over lunch. thanks for the memories

rachna said...

i saw a sablok clinic ad on the wall from my mussorie express seat this time too. :)

Anonymous said...

Nice article Prithvi. It took me also on the time travel with you. I remember Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje though not that it was Rajni's last episode that day. We used to live in Karnal at that time. I have visited that home multiple times in my dreams.


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