I finally sit down with Grandma to ask her an unanswered & oft-asked question. WHY did my forefathers leave China for India? The answer is not as prompt as I expect it to be. Almost 200 years later, no one amongst the living in the family seems to know the exact reason & the details are sketchy at best. It is a story nonetheless, and I find myself listening intently to the bits & pieces that Grandma has to offer
"18th century Communist China: A country which was making rapid developmental strides and was hell-bent on strengthening it's military might. It was a time when a member or members of the family HAD to enlist in the armed forces. Only one child could stay back, the rest had to leave to prepare to die on the battlefield. Although serving the nation in such a capacity is a matter of honor & pride, no decision forced down one's gullet ever goes down well. So it was that my forefathers & their families expressed stern disapproval and decided to move to more secular & democratic shores. Those who could afford it boarded the boats to Burma and beyond. The rest, in an age devoid of motor vehicles, aircrafts and navigational equipment bore the journey to India in small groups through ice-capped mountains & hazardous forests on foot. They walked for weeks, sometimes months. Many fell prey to the elements, sickness, fatigue, hunger & ferocious cannibals. Those who survived made it to Calcutta, the then capital of British India and made it their first home. They brought with them their traditional professions of Dentistry, leather works & restaurants, many of which exist to this day in modern-day Kolkata. Hereon, the family-tree flourished to what it is today. They learnt the language, imbibed the customs & traditions. Some moved again to Canada, Australia & America when they could. The rest made India their permanent base, a place they called Home..."
Grandma's story ends here as I'm in a hurry to leave for a Doctor's appointment. Now that we've started, it whets my appetite for many more lingering questions. How did they manage to settle down in a country where no one spoke their language, let alone look like them? Where exactly in China do we hail from? What were my father's growing years like, born in 1948 - a year after Indian Independence? Did the Indo-China war of 1962 undo the good-will garnered over decades? Like a good page-turner the answers to these will have to wait, for this is a story for another time
It is indeed a pleasure to read what you have to post on my blog, be it praise, criticism or just general affection. And I thank you for the time you take for penning your thoughts
Of late, however, many of you've been writing to me in Chinese. I'm sorry to say that since I don't read or write the Chinese letter I cannot decipher a word of what you've written. I would love to hear from you, but in English or Hindi please, if you will. Till next time, God bless!