By Malangba Bangormayum
Father called me that morning. He had been wondering and trying to get hold of ‘whom’ that his grandson, my son reminded him of. He felt that his grandson of two and half months had a similarity with someone familiar to him. But he could not figure out who that was until that moment. Finally, it dawned on him that it was Tintin, the graphic character. I sent a photograph of my son. The likeness was in the characteristic tuft of hair that Tintin has – that tuft of hair that stands on his crown and which not even the most devilish scenarios that Tintin undergoes, in his adventures,could disturb. Whether on the moon or on the driest desert or deep beneath the oceans the tuft of hair stands upright. My son had that tuft of hair.
That was three years ago. My son does not have Tintin’s hairdo anymore. It is gone with the shaving that he had last year when he got his ears pierced. Still, some of his aunts affectionately call him by that name Tintin. They wondered how his hair grows like that. I was asked the rhetorical question why he had that hairdo. Did Hergè, the creator of the character, face this question?I have come up with a theory to explain the phenomenon of this standing tuft of hair. My son has two hair-whorls on his crown. Most of us have a single spiral thingy on our crown. My son has two that revolve in opposite directions – one clockwise, the other anti-clockwise. The two whorls collide and where this happens the hair stands up because that is the resolution of the two conflicting hair forces giving that characteristic Tintin hair style. I have no idea whether Hergè’s Tintin has two hair-whorls to explain the character’s hairdo but in the case of my son,this fact of two hair-whorls spiralling in opposite directions explains the phenomenon. Different cultures attach different meanings to the phenomenon. Some cultures like ours take it to be a sign of a womaniser in the making; some take it to be a sign of an angry disposition.
On my laptop, I have a collection of animated cartoons, videos and stuffs that he likes. Amongst them are some Tintin animations. I happen to watch with him the animation of “Tintin in Tibet”. His mother does not approve my habit to let him watch cartoons when I need some time of my own.I had on many occasions given lectures to parents about the harm that watching TV can have on the formative stages of a child. I have read enough on the lasting negative effects on the behaviour of children that watches TV for long periods. Letting them watch TV while having food has been singled out as having dire consequences. Giving advice is such an easy thing. Here, I am feeding him his breakfast as we watch animated cartoons together.
There are Japanese, Spanish, French, and some other language speaking cartoons in the collection. My son has been on the slow side of picking up language skills. The accusing finger has been pointed to me based on the belief that I have confused the kid with these languages. He can’t make up his mind what to speak, which language to speak, they say. I do share the concern. Kids in my extended family who have grown before our eyes have shown extraordinary precocity regarding language acquisition. My nephew, my brother’s son spoke full sentences before he could stand. My uncle’s son called me by name when he was still on his mother’s back. The stark difference between them and our son made us all the more worried. His mother did searches on the internet. We went to the paediatrician, who advised us that there is nothing to worry and, most importantly, not to show worry regarding this to the kid. He said kids‘somehow’ knowand feel the worry of others, in some cases even before they could speak. Here was someone trained in such a rigorous science as medicine speaking, having reconciled with himself that there are things yet unexplained in the ‘somehow’.
His mother complains that I still keep these cartoons. I do not have the heart to delete them. In “Tintin in Tiblet”, Tintin comes to Tibet in search for his young Chinese friend Chang who was on an ill-fated aircraft which met with an accident on the Himalayas. The rescue team had given up on finding anyone alive. Everyone – Captain Haddock, Chayng’s family- had lost all hope of findin Chang alive. Tintin against all the good reasons, felt something that made him risk his life to go and search for him. Hergé, who has given Tintin the faculty of a logical mind has enriched him with this side of human beings: faith. In a disenchanted world Hergé gives a chance to enchantment. In a world where there is no more faith in faith, he asserted faith through Tintin. Hergé’s empathy for the unexplained, about what the modern man calls superstition, about religion in this story uncovers a lack in the hard-headed, stubborn scholarly reductions of such things as nonsense and nonsensical.
I don’t know how my son would grow up. I don’t know his destiny. Would it be as the two hair-whorls predict? I don’t know. But I have a wish, a father’s wish. I wish he grows to have the heart of Tintin which harbours hope, faith and warmth despite all odds against them. A tall wish I know.