THE CHI­NESE OF KOLKATA

Airports India - - WONDERFUL WORLD -

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

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