Tintin in Mumbai

News ~ Monday 9th December 2019

Who says Tintin doesn't travel anymore? 2019... This year we celebrated the ninetieth anniversary of this eternally youthful comic strip character internationally renowned for his dynamism. This global momentum culminated in an extraordinary event, the screening of the documentary Tintin Moonwalker at the Nehru Centre in Mumbai, in the company of the Belgian Consulate General and some 900 invited students from fourteen different schools in the country.

We were not only astonished by the large crowds who attended the film’s screening, but also by Tintin’s reputation among the young Indian audience. As a sign of recognition and gratitude, Tintin immersed himself in this bubbling city of 22,000,000 inhabitants (the great Mumbai), which is twice that of Belgium, but in a territory of 603.4 km2 as opposed to Belgium’s area of 35,000 km2.

A real hive of activity

Every day over 2,000,000 commuters pass through Central Station, a UNESCO heritage site.

In India, the train is an adventure in its own right, and one not to be missed. What struck us, we could even say, ”caught" our imagination, was the presence of decapods, as featured in The Crab with the Golden Claws, on signage for carriages reserved for people with disabilities, or illness.

A little bit of everything

Mumbai, a city of contrasts where everything is possible and where extremes rub shoulders, flourishing business centres and slums, (repulsive slums), modernity and the secular. Experience the incredible contrast of colours. Shades, palettes, colours, unparalleled hues, whether in the clothing panoply of the population, in the markets, or in the city on the façades of tens of thousands of buildings, including several hundred skyscrapers that are nearly a hundred meters high.

Lunch break

Imagine the unimaginable, such as the delivery of millions of dabba (boxes) containing lunch (originally made at home) to the workplace. This ancestral and unique tradition, provided by the dabbawallahs. The originality of this system is to mark the box with a unique code made up of colours and letters, which can even be understood by illiterate people.

Each box receives an inscription with the delivery address and the landing station. Each local delivery driver is assigned an area of the city which they know perfectly, which allows them to choose an alternative route, if necessary, in order to ensure a constant and fast and efficienct service (source Wiki). In the centre, the dabbawallahs are gathered in the areas near the stations (*) to take charge of the delivery of the boxes.

(*) Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus / Victorian Central Station
(*) Church Gate Railwa

Dhoby Ghat

Another specific feature of this immense country, is the large open-air laundry in Mumbai, Dhoby Ghat L. A lot of elbow grease and sweat is exerted, and it is by far and away the largest of its kind in the world. The washers, known as dhobis, work outdoors to clean the clothes and laundry of Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals. It was built in 1890.

The market, the ultimate experience!

With a visit to the Thieves Market, the traveller’s experience reaches its climax. Just like the good old Flea Market in The Secret of The Unicorn, you can find everything at Chor Bazaar. It is made up of an immense maze of alleys lined with antique shops and bric à brac of all kinds, or “brols”, as one would say in Brusseleir, the patois of Brussels, often featured in The Adventures of Tintin. And Bollywood isn’t far away! The posters of Latin lovers from Asia adorn the shop fronts.

In a suffocating atmosphere, Tintin continued his long walk, visiting a school, with nearly 600 students in impeccable uniforms and exemplary behaviour, listening with great attention to their respective teachers. A perfect model for Europe, enough to make our teachers dream, especially the oldest among them.

A must see, among other things....

Of course, these few snapshots only represent a quick and very succinct glimpse of a world far removed from our own. To end on a magical note, Tintin and his friends advise you not to miss, under any circumstances, Elephanta Island and its formidable caves, including that of Shiva, a pillared hall (mandapa) about forty metres wide. This place is very symbolic of Hindu culture.

Read the books:
- Cigars of the Pharaoh
- The Blue Lotus
- Tintin in Tibet

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