THE CHINESE OF KOLKATA
It was a lazy Saturday afternoon. We were loafing around, not having much to do, in the streets of central Calcutta, when a bright red door caught our attention. The door had three letter boxes nailed to it and on each of them were written a few alien names. Not the typical names like Bose, Chatterjee, Mukherjee, or even a Kumar or Singh, but names as foreign as Yun, Chin and Lim.
Little did we know then that we were walking through the only Chinatown in the Indian subcontinent.
Thanks to our history books, most of us know about Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang, the two Chinese monks who had visited India and travelled extensively across the land. However, much less celebrated are a group of men, from the same land as these two monks, who came to India many centuries later. Unlike Fa Hien and Hiuen Tsang, these men never went back to China but stayed back to make India their home, to enrich the patchwork quilt India is today.
It was the 1770s. For quite a few decades, British shipping had been dominating the opium trade out of India to China. Ships, loaded with chests of
A sauce factory and store in Old China town of Kolkata
Letterboxes with Chinese residents’ names on the front door of a home in central Kolkata