When Snowy Was Kuttush
what caught my eye and made me examine a whole pile of them, was not their amazing design (really?
In men’s tshirts? But let me not digress.) but the fact that they were all Phantom themed shirts. Yes,
Phantom, ‘The Ghost Who Walks’. There he was, suddenly out of the pages of comic books and
swaggering across chests, thulping villains with his deadly ringed fist.
our childhood. ‘I read Phantom in Bangla too, you know,’ I told him. As a long suffering listener of my
rambling stories about books, he waited for me to explain. So I did.
dearth of books to read. Or magazines. For children who read Bangla, there were some wonderful
children’s magazines that we devoured. My favourite was Anandamela. Yes, there were Shuktara and
Sandesh too, but we subscribed to Anandamela and gobbled down the stories and comic strips in it
exactly, was reading the serialized Tintin and Phantom comics that appeared here, translated into
Bangla. Now, it wasn’t like we didn’t or couldn’t read the English originals. They were available at home
and in neighborhood lending libraries. But alongside them, there were also these Bangla ones. And
much as we laughed and delighted in ‘Billions of blue blistering barnacles’, or Snowy’s drunken antics, or
Thomson and Thompson’s bunglings, we also laughed equally hard at joto shob gneri guglir jhaank
(Billions of blue blistering barnacles in Bangla), or Kuttush as Snowy, or Ronson and Johnson in the place
of the twin detectives.
words here carried unique Bengali nuances. Later, after the advent of Google, I learnt that they were
translated by Nirendranath Chakraborty, a Sahitya Akademi award-winning poet. It delights me today
that for someone like him Tintin was not just ‘children’s comics’. He translated the sense of adventure,
the comic interludes, the oddball characters in such a way that they fit right into our own Bengali
sprained his ankle trying to flee Bianca Castafiore’s arrival but in vain) on the Marlinspike grounds. There
he meets Professor Calculus and the two have a conversation where the slightly deaf professor talks
mainly about a new kind of rose that he has grown. Hiding behind the bushes are paparazzi who are
staking out the grounds for juicy gossip about the Milanese Nightingale who is visiting Marlinspike.
Unfortunately, a hive of bees get after them and they have to flee. The captain, furious at this, sees
them but is unable to give chase thanks to his bad foot. Instead, he yells after them, and then turns to
the professor and asks: ‘Who were those ectoplasms, bolting like rabbits?’
bandor-gulo kaara, khorgosher moto dourey palalo? And thus, one of Haddock’s typical turns of phrase
is transposed into Bengali without sounding forced or silly and retaining the humour.
carried one along with their sheer pace of action and adventure and I remember being captivated by the
gorgeous Diana, Phantom’s wife and his twin children Kit and Heloise. That they were all speaking in
Bengali despite their completely Caucasian looks didn’t strike me as odd at all. After all, having these
stories available in another language meant simply that there were double the number of books to read!
characters being made available in English. So Nante Fante, who are two naughty boys always getting up
to mischief talk in slightly ungrammatical English. Even well-loved Bengali children’s classics like Chander
Pahar, or popular stories like Gosain Baganer Bhoot are available as comics in English thanks to an
intrepid Bengali publisher.
shows there may be enough Bengali children out there who can’t read the Bangla originals and are
making do with these translations which are not always of the highest quality. Yet, I see my own 13 year
old devouring them happily and somewhere, I am a bit relieved that he is reading these silly, funny and
harmless books from my childhood. At least now we can discuss how Nante and Fante outwitted
Keltuda and laugh over those antics.
people on this planet, there are billions more to listen and read, and we can only hope that our
languages keep intersecting and breathing life into each other so that we are never out of a story on a
lazy summer afternoon.