We The Dreamers

By Dr Rajagopal Soondron

The old generation’s imagination has created cartoons, then booklets, then made films out of them. Now we want to translate them into reality. Will our new generation be similarly inspired?

Being the only breadwinner and devoted to his seven children, Dad could not afford to be lenient; he was a severe man.

As the first son I was expected to be as conscientious as him. Hence my space for extracurricular activities was restricted; but this did not deter me from running away now and then to have a football match with my buddies. But I discovered a new pastime which I could easily camouflage among my supposed reading activities.

Youngsters of the 1960s, like myself, were yearning for those black and white comic cartoons booklets which could always be hidden in one’s satchel in between the books, under one’s pillow or mattress.

What a wonder it was to discover the universe of Blek Le Roc, Kiwi, professor Alembic. My cousin Saga was more interested in ‘Texas’ part of those cartoons, which was too serious an adult world to be of any appeal to me. It was anathema for the library at the Plaza – Rose Hill to keep and provide such “rubbish cheap” albums. After all, my old man had me enrolled there as from 1961 to borrow books for reading to improve my English and French.

Ultimately, we students had to rely on our fellow classmates to see the colour of those cartoons; we always inherited the old, half torn, yellowish, derelict ‘revie’ … which we would secretly steal into our home for a late-night perusal.

That’s how we enjoyed those stories woven around the wild American jungle life, of the pioneers in the Far West and the “villains Amerindians” roaming on their saddleless horses. Kiwi was our hero, and Professor Alembic supplied us a good dose of mirth and giggle.

Tonton Lolo

Fancy my excitement when I discovered that my neighbour, Tonton Lolo, a ‘bus controller’, much my senior, was also a fanatic of those black and white cartoons. Soon I somehow succeeded in convincing him to lend me his book. Being his precious pastime my neighbour would regularly buy those booklets near the Cosmos shop in Rose Hill as his bus did stop to pick up passengers. So, for the first time in my life I enjoyed enthusiastically new cartoon booklets, not those soiled, torn copies of yesteryears. Later I learned they were piled and stored carefully by Tonton Lolo, while my transaction with him remained on the sly, lest my old man came to suspect my furtive activity. That’s how, when everyone was asleep on those late weekends, I would take some time off to switch allegiance from textbooks to those cartoons and immersed myself into the world of make-belief. Quite a satisfying relaxation for the adolescent.


Later we would discover Herge’s more colourful, civilized and orderly life of Tintin, the reporter, of his adventures with Capitain Haddock, Prof Tournesol and eccentric detectives Dupont and Dupond in far-off countries. But access to these hard cover cartoons was not easy. We could buy them, but it was a dream. The Plaza library would later stock those Tintin adventures, but there was always someone who was ahead of us to borrow them. It was pure luck if we could lay our hands on one of them.

But as we progressed towards the end of high school days, we regretfully gave up those activities to concentrate on our studies, though we never lost sight of some adventures or talk concerning those childhood heroes. Later some friends would murmur furtively that a well-known mathematician of the high school still indulged in perusing those cartoons at home, at his age and status!

Somehow, we felt proud and safe… we were in good company.

Later at university in professional course, I discovered during my vacation that my Mauritian friend Clement, the Alliance française responsible agent in Trichy, had, besides the unabridged version of ‘Le Comte De Monte Cristo’ and ‘Les trois Mousquetaires’ (which we read again and again), a stack of Tintin albums at his place. Great indeed was my joy to rediscover and revise them several times!

The Real World

Decades later I would ponder why we come to cherish those cartoons. I speculated dangerously and unscientifically that perhaps we, as babies, most probably saw the world gradually in two dimensions just as simultaneously as our eyesight got used to the mobile and the immobile objects around us from babyhood to childhood. We come to love that world of two dimensions; hence our yearning for cartoons, though modern tots would prefer to watch the TV version. No wonder even as grown-ups we will enjoy our Tom and Jerry episode once in a while!

This nostalgia never dies out!

So, fancy our excitement when we heard that Tintin et les Oranges bleues, Spiderman or lately The Avengers are being projected as films in theatres. We hurry to go watch them, perhaps, not only to relive our childhood dreams, but to find out whether the fancy world we had created years ago had been faithfully reproduced and did coincide with the reverie in our imagination. Sometimes we are amazed but at other times we are slightly disappointed.

Long ago that virtual world was accessed through books and album only. But suddenly that universe has exploded; it is being fed to our children ad nauseam. They are flooded with virtual sensation, as their eyes become glued to their blue screens; that virtual world is being now supplied to them very fast and readymade. The tragedy is that they have bypassed that very important milestone of building slowly their own imaginary world in their mind. Where will this lead our new generation, how will it affect their cognitive function is anyone’s guess.

The old generation’s imagination has created cartoons, then booklets, then made films out of them. Now we want to translate them into reality. Will our new generation be similarly inspired?

Some scientists are asking themselves: could they find the true physical properties of matter to translate those childhood dream worlds into reality? Could we discover why can’t we jump onto our ceilings and wall like Spiderman and grapple around like our lizards do? Already some serious cosmologists-mathematicians believe that we humans are just virtual holographs of some universal projection into the present world – an extrapolation from the concept of the black hole and its energy display on its two-dimensional event horizon.

Gradually we realize that the cartoon world, having captured the fancy of film makers succeeds to attract more serious military men in real life. The Star Trek series Enterprise ship gave its name to the aircraft-carrier of the American navy.

The Illusion

Our sages now and then talk about Maya. Is it that they saw another truth behind our physical world? That all that we come across everyday is just a virtual, illusionary world, behind it lies another reality?

Is it possible that we humans serve as the melting pot for the virtual and the reality, just as we do for the past and the future, for the unconscious and the conscious, or the microscopic and macroscopic?

And as science makes new discoveries it keeps telling us that all humans are always related among themselves as their genome, genes and DNA come to illustrate; so also, all living things are most probably no different. And a step further we realize how all matter (living and non-living) is made of atoms, molecules of heavy metals, themselves the products of hydrogen and helium, themselves derived from common subatomic particles that come from the deep, dark era of our universe’s beginning. All this seems to give the lie to our regional biased beliefs of our own superiority and differences – we have created in our mind a certain virtual world for our own success and stability at the expense of others — just as children fall prey to the virtual world of Tintin. This is perhaps the greatest Maya – illusion — that our sages keep telling us about. Some of them, having conquered pain and hunger, would really see the world as an illusion.

Meanwhile, as adults, we would not stop dreaming – to build another world within our mind – to yearn for a clean cheap source of energy and the possibility of travelling near the speed of light. That would propel us into interstellar travel — just as some of our ancestors were supposed to have done tens of thousands years ago — before they discovered and landed on the Blue Marble.

We always build on our dreams.

* Published in print edition on 17 May 2019

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