ACE-REPORTER TINTIN and his faithful furry companion Snowy are on their way to India this June. No, they will not be embarking on an adventure with old Indian friend — the ‘snowman of the Himalayas’ (from Tintin in Tibet) — or solving mysteries deep in the Sunderbans. Instead, they will travel all over the country conversing in fluent Hindi, converting those still immune to Belgian artist Hergé’s iconic comic into die-hard Tintin fans — from Bihar to Uttar Pradesh.
Tintin fanatic and Om Books International CEO Ajay Mago was vexed by the isolation of Hindi-speaking readers from Tintin’s adventures when he first approached the Franco-Belgian Casterman Publishers in 2005 for the rights to translate his favourite comic into Hindi. “I couldn’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love Tintin once they read the books. There’s something in them for everyone. I thought it was tragic that only our elite English-speaking population should have access to these amazing stories.”
While Casterman was enthusiastic — Tintin has already been translated into 58 languages from around the world, including Bengali — they were equally hard to please when it came to the actual translation. After a painfully long period of negotiating back and forth, Mago and a team of translators worked on several drafts over six to eight months before Casterman’s panel of five experts (including an Indian ambassador) approved their manuscript. “It was difficult. We had to retain the dry humour and catch-phrases, which are the best parts of the stories for me — but are also often culturally contextual and hard to translate,” Mago admits.
An additional difficulty was Casterman’s insistence that Om Books’ translators work with the original French editions of Tintin rather than the English versions of the stories to really ‘get’ the character. To appeal to Hindi readers, some character names had to undergo desi-fication. Tintin’s resourceful terrier will be known as ‘Natkhat’, while bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson will don the titles of the evergreen Indian idiots — Santu and Bantu. Captain Haddock’s colourful swearing retains its alliterative charm, as ‘millions and millions of squirming black turtles’ becomes ‘karodo karod kasamasate kale kachhue’ and ‘ten thousand thundering typhoons’ translates as ‘dus hazaar tadtadate toofan’.