Welcoming the rabbit

Updated: 2011-01-28 13:20

(China Daily European Weekly)

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Welcoming the rabbit


An occasion to go back to cultural roots

By Indrajit Basu

The banners are being fixed, the symbolic red lanterns made ready and dragon dance participants lined up. Even as their once burgeoning community shrinks in size, the Chinese in Kolkata hope that the Year of the Rabbit will indeed be a year of revival for them.

This year too, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated with usual dragon dances, and events like ethnic plays, dance and music. For many, the celebration billed for the Sunday before Feb 3, will be yet another chance for the new generation of Chinese to go back to their cultural roots.

With an exodus to other countries, the community size has shrunk to 4,000 over the past two decades, but Kolkata's Chinese community is still the largest compared with other cities in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal. Until about four decades ago, the Chinese population in Kolkata was about 50,000.

"Our forefathers came to India years ago and settled in Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta. Many of us never visited China. We may have become as much Indians as we are Chinese. Yet we want to keep our culture and beliefs alive," says Paul Chung, president of the Indian Chinese Association in Kolkata.

"I am a Chinese, but Indian influence on me and my children is strong," says Paul Lin, 61, a second-generation "Indian Chinese" who manages his father's leather business. "The Chinese New Year celebration is an opportunity to come together and make the next generation aware of their culture."

Unlike some who lament their dwindling size, Robert Hsu, 31, an IT professional and a third-generation Chinese who has never visited China, considers Chinese New Year just another social event.

"Maybe the Chinese community is dwindling in Kolkata and we are sad that many relatives have moved, but still, it is a way of life," he says.

Indrajit Basu is a Kolkata-based writer for China Daily Asia Weekly.


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