Serial Bus

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Tintin in Tawang

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Tintin in Tibet

Tintin visited Tibet in 1958, about an year before the Dalai Lama had to flee in the wake of the Chinese invasion. Tintin loved the country and wanted to revisit. Upset by the title of his memoir published in 1960 (‘Tintin in Tibet’), the Chinese government banned Tintin and Snowy from traveling to Tibet through a special proclamation signed by the Chairman himself. In 2001, China allowed the publication of a Chinese-language version of the by-then famous book with a slightly different title – ‘Tintin in China’s Tibet’. Most Chinese came to love Tintin for his bravery when he traveled to Tibet in 1958 to save Chang Chong-Chen, his Chinese friend. Yet, the Party still held a grouse, for it was Tintin who popularized the word ‘Tibet’ across the world. Had it not been for him, China would have succeeded in its sinister plan to re-name Tibet as ‘The Liberated Land’.

Very recently, the Chinese government finally relented and advised its Belgian counterparts that Tintin could go to Tibet, as long as his memoir from such a journey were titled ‘Tintin in China’ and that he specifically condemn ‘the Dalai clique’ for any dire situation he might face during his travel. Unsurprisingly, Tintin refused however, not everyone knew one of the reasons for spurning China’s offer – Tintin’s ancestry. He was born of Tibetan parents who had migrated to Belgium just before hostilities broke during the Great War. Only Herge and Blessed Lightning knew this.

Blessed Lightning (or Lama Dorje), the lama at the monastery of Khor-Biyong in 1958, who famously saw a vision of Tintin (who he called ‘Great Heart’), had abdicated to India along with the 14th Dalai Lama in 1959. Their party stopped at Tawang, the revered seat of the Gelugpa sect near the Indo-Tibet border. Lama Dorje decided to stay put at Tawang so that he could hasten back to Tibet when the Chinese left. He knew it won’t be soon but he could afford to wait as his blessedness made him immune to disease and degeneration. What Lama Dorje did not mention to anyone was his vision during their sojourn at the monastery – he saw himself welcoming the 15th Dalai Lama at Tawang sometime in the next century. He had seen the face of the 15th Dalai Lama.

At the turn of 2009, Lama Dorje saw portends of some event of huge significance looming large. It would be 60 years since he left his country, which he could still see from a mountain top on a clear day. He learnt of China’s overtures to Tintin and the latter’s subsequent refusal. He sent a telegram to Tintin inviting him to Tawang – he wrote that Tawang is the next best option if Lhasa is off-limits. Tintin was overjoyed to hear from Blessed Lightning and immediately enlisted Captain Haddock and Snowy for the trip.

Tintin’s 1958 visit was undertaken under very different circumstances and he was unable to take a detour to Lhasa. The Dalai Lama always regretted not having met the boy then who Tibet had grown so grateful to and he surely did not wish to miss the opportunity now. With China’s checkered history with Tintin, a meeting with Tintin would also serve well to bring the predicament of Tibetans into the limelight. Lama Dorje made the Dalai Lama aware of Tintin’s roots and invited him to Tawang on the pretext of a religious ceremony however Tintin’s visit was to be kept a closely-guarded secret whose knowledge was limited to only the innermost circle of the Dalai Lama. Everyone knew that if such a visit was confirmed, China would leave no stone unturned to scuttle the plan.

As 09 November 2009 drew near, Lama Dorje saw strange stellar formations in the night sky and unusually beautiful snowflakes from an early snowfall glistening in the daylight. He began to wonder if these were signs pointing to an imminent realization of the vision he saw in 1959.

In the meanwhile, China appeared to have intercepted some chatter that an internationally renowned personality was about to visit Tawang. Worried that it might be Tintin and unable to confirm the suspicion, China initiated a diplomatic offensive to forestall Dalai Lama’s visit to Tawang. The government went into an overdrive, summoning all its covert and overt channels to block the visit. It once again claimed Tawang (and the rest of the state of Arunachal Pradesh) as an ancient Chinese territory and accused ‘the Dalai clique’ of inciting violence and separatism. Alongside, it objected to India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh. When neither of the tactics worked, it sought to drive a wedge between Tibetans and India by accusing the Dalai Lama of poisoning Sino-Indian ties. Alas, all conspiracies came to a nought.

The day finally arrived. On Monday 09th November, the plane carrying visitors from Europe landed without an incident near the big Gompa of Tawang. All the houses and the monastery were bedecked with prayer flags and thangkas. The Dalai Lama and Lama Dorje welcomed Tintin and his entourage near the monastery gate and draped traditional katas around their necks. As Dalai Lama cast a look at Tintin, he saw a radiant glow on his boy-like face and he had an epiphany. He had long known that China would not allow peaceful selection of his reincarnation after his demise. To avoid compromising Dalai Lama’s legacy and leadership, he had been considering naming his successor within his lifetime. Now, as he stood there at the foot of the Tawang monastery, he thought Tintin would make the perfect Dalai Lama – young enough to be ordained, sensible enough to lead the Tibetans credibly and famous enough to keep the Tibetan cause alive. With the concurrence of Lama Dorje, Dalai Lama proposed his succession plan to Tintin. Tintin, always full of valor and conscience, saw this as a lifelong mission in the service of the country of his parents and consented.

By evening, the news had traveled far. Newspapers, TV commentators and leaders across the world hailed the announcement favorably and sent in their congratulations for the 15th Dalai Lama. Unbeknownst to everyone, a Snowman watched the developments from a mountain top near Tawang and smiled for the first time.

Smiling Snowman

Smiling Snowman


Written by serialbus

November 8, 2009 at 4:15 pm

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