A day which starts rather late in the City of Joy; it’s a rest day after all.
Yet, I’m up early. 6 AM, the clock says. I’ve lived in the city for 8 years now, but today’s gonna be the first time I visit the city’s original Chinatown- Tiretti Bazaar.
The roads are empty and the air is fresh, quite unlike the scene you’ll observe just 4 hours later in the same place, as it transforms into just another vegetable market full of dusty bylanes and litter. But for now, it is peaceful.
As peaceful as the face of the first vendor we visit. He’s been here a long time now. He’s seen his people come and go. Some went to Tangra, fondly referred to as new Chinatown. Most took a bigger leap and went all the way to Canada, Australia and Singapore.
He persisted, though.
Just like his cuisine. The dumplings I taste there are nothing like any momo dish I’ve had before. The Chicken broth is again distinct in taste. The Red bean bun, an item I’m trying for the first time, is incredibly soft and subtle at the same time.
The man is a native Chinese, and his ancestors belonged to the Hakka region of China. It is believed that they were brought along way back during the time of Warren Hastings, by a man called Tong Achi, to work in a sugar mill. After fragmenting into different professions a few years later, most of them amalgamated into the local culture. A good number of them worked in the tanneries, which were huge back then and employed a lot of people.
Apparently, some of them even went ahead and established licensed opium dens, popularly called ‘Cheena Bazaar’.
A lot of them got married to Indian locals, leading to another distinctive class of people, who we today call Chindians, a portmanteau of their two ancestries.
A lot of them can also be found in Singapore and Malaysia, naturally as a result of the significant incoming of the two ethnic groups in these countries. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to hear a name with a very Chinese sounding first name and a typical South Indian surname.
Inspite of being a rather small group, Chindians have been excelling in many areas. Take for example, Nicol David whose name is almost synonymous with female squash after holding the World No.1 ranking for a record breaking 108 months.
Closer home, one of India’s biggest names in badminton, commonwealth gold medallist Jwala Gutta also belongs to this rare group. Drifting away from sports, Singapore’s Foreign Minister, Vivian Balakrishnan is another addition.
Despite having such big names amongst the group, Chindians haven’t really had the same amount of recognition as other mixed race. They are a prime example of a small community which came together due to certain limitations. A good extension to this would be the case of Guyanese Chindians, who came about just because the country had an oversupply of male Chinese workers( coolies) with no Chinese women to balance the scale. They married Indian women instead, adding to the Chindian population.
It’s fascinating how communities come together, and our species slowly evolves in the process as well. Chindians are just a small chip in a huge wooden block of such mixed race communities.
It would definitely not be a big surprise to have our descendants reading another such write up on an human-alien race in the near future.
- –Shivansh Mishra