Saturday, June 26, 2010

GRANNY'S TEA TIME STORIES: THE JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND MILES...




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!

32 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:59 PM

    Hey Meiyang. nice post - looks like you are tired of answering and proving you are Indian lol!. hey why dont you have your own website to blog post, share your photos, videos. I will be happy to develop website for you. at least we both looks same. please contact me if interested. http://tinyurl.com/3384yk5 thanks.

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  2. Dear Meiyang,

    Your post made me miss my grandma and the innumerable sittings we had where she would describe events from her life and we would all intently listen to her. I have been wondering about the same questions myself, as to how I came to be and where my roots really are. I had thought of having similar conversations with granny but the year I decided I would do so during the holidays, she passed away few months earlier.

    Your posts are almost always thought-provoking even if it is about something ordinary. Love the way you write.

    BTW is the pic above with you in it taken in Singapore? It looks familiar!

    Regards,
    Ranjan

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  3. Thumbs up!!!n ya c it's in english..:-)

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  4. sharmila7:39 PM

    A thought nicely written.I wish that I could do the same.Continue the good work.

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  5. Dear Meiyang

    The theory of Communism has come from Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx in 19th century (1847) explaining Bourgeois (ruling class) and Proletarians (working class) and that was in Germany. Communism started in China by Communist party of China not before 1921(20th century). In 18th century, the thing you have referred, I believe that might be some oppressive aristocratic dynasty, well if anybody goes for Chinese history, one can find these incidents in abundance.

    I thought you might be interested to know, since you got slightly mixed up with Chinese history and Communism.

    Mr B

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  6. Meiyang Wrote -

    The phrase "I love you from the bottom of my heart" would actually be, if we look at it from a Medical point of view, one of the most inappropriate form of speech to display your affection. If you remember your undergraduate Biology lessons, deoxygenated blood (blood poor in oxygen) enters the heart through the Right Atrium and is passed through the Right Ventricle to the lungs for re-oxygenation and removal of carbon dioxide. It's only the Left side of the heart that receives AND delivers pure, oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. So on principle, if you're intent on certifying the purity of your love to that special someone, the phrase you should be using is, "I love you from the LEFT side of my heart."



    Mr B wrote to leave a comment -

    well, this reflects an insensitive thought on looking at feeling of love Meiyang!

    Scientifically, we are not definite about the connection between feeling of love and heart. hence, there is no need to correct the phrase, in the way heart works. As long as, purity is concerned there are lot of things, which can be referred to endorse the purity of love.

    It's needless to say that, People just use the phrase because they want to make something appear with the help of their words which doesn't really exist materially. it's just to express the feeling from deep down, so, please just understand the feeling and be sensitive!

    apologies to offend people who were..

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  7. DelennDax711:30 AM

    Love the pic, well both pics, but, 2nd one is cute. :-) It must be frustrating sometimes to be superficially perceived as Chinese when your heart & mind are Indian. I bet it's kinda hard to feel interested in your Chinese heritage since it's really important for people to know that you are truly Indian....or maybe not. Eh, not sure how I'd feel..well, I know that it's important to me for people to know who I truly am and not who they think I am. Anyhow, just thinkin' thoughts. Nice blog entry. :-)

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  8. I guess you have Indianess more than any Indian.
    If you had been a Chinese it was our loss.
    So, thanks to your forefathers for choosing India their home.

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  9. @ Anonymous : Will have an all-inclusive website "soon". Don't want to rush into it
    @ Leobharat : Good to see someone well versed in History making that correction about the beginnings of communism in China. I profess I don't know much about the country of my forefathers & hadn't done any background check since this was just a repetition of the story related to me. However, you've got me interested & I'm surely going to read up on this
    As for the "bottom of my heart" post, it was meant in good humor. Not be to taken sooooo seriously :)

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  10. @Moirangthem Ranjan Singh : Yes, this was at one of the underground train stations in Singapore a few years ago
    @Delenndax : what's more frustrating is the extremely personal remarks directed because of the perception of being an outsider. But things are changing :)

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  11. Life is strange and we all struggle for our respective existence in some or the other way. The desire of comfort accompanies by the side. But in this rat-race of ambitions, of dreams, of the fast pacing life, of competition, of the 'need' to survive, sometimes, moving down to the memory lane is a wise decision:)
    Going back to your roots is something really interesting. They say past is gone and is meant to be forgotten, but some things known / concluded from the past leaves behind some imprints and amazingly, it reflects what we are today.
    Was indeed good to hear from you after long.
    Take Care and God Bless.
    Keep the charm and enchanteur of your words living...

    Love always,
    niyati :)

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  12. Anonymous5:25 AM

    great post! but it has generated a LOT of questions:
    since you said that you did not read or write Chinese but do you speak it? have you ever been to china? and wikipedia says you are from hubei province so is that false?
    (I am an Indian who is trying to learn chinese so if you could speak both hindi and chinese, that would be a GREAT inspiration, because i have not met anyone so far who speaks both languages)
    - ABCD (american based confused desi) :D

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  13. Anonymous1:34 PM

    Hi Meiyang,

    Nice to read your writing again. Please do so more often.

    I know I would not be priviledged to be your dental patient to experience your dentistry skills but I do definitely know that you are a caring dental surgeon, a gifted prolific writer, singer and more.... On your acting skills, I will let you know once I've seen BC, which I've the DVD but still haven't found time to sit down and view it. No offense, prepare to get some brick-bats from me later on your acting skills; maybe NOT....Your language skills in Hindi is above heaven and I know this really amazed many Indians worldwide including me.

    Now that you are well seasoned as a show host in mega TV shows, Bollywood events and live stage appearances in India and abroad, I am sure you have built yourself a big audience base - be they fans, supporters, followers or readers etc. out there beyond oceans - keenly interested to know your latest projects and well-being.

    I came to know you through Indian Idol 3 competition, where accidently your Chinese face - a novelty then appeared in a news media in internet. Thereafter, I tried to check on each and every episode of the contest in which you appeared.

    Your topic of The Journey of a Thousand Miles is very close to my heart because I have similar background like you but I was Cantonese - second generation Chinese Indians (you are Hubei) who left India to a foreign shore in early 70's. Thereafter, I left to do CA studies in the U.K qualifying as a CPA and then worked in Europe, North America and in countries across Asia Pacific at practice and MNC's. I'm well travelled for pleasure or business and still continue to travel extensively for pleasure.

    After nearly four decades, I finally returned to visit India last year to Mumbai, Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Srinagar and Kolkata. I was surprised that my rusty Hindi re-appeared well after so many years of non-use. Many people I've met in tourist places were shocked that I speak Hindi.

    I have seen your grandmother via Indian Idol 3 clips and there she looked a graceful person. I've also heard her speaking Hubei to you when she did the "puja offering" asking for God's blessings on your success at performances. Give her my personal regards, although I don't know her.

    It's very encouraging that you try to trace your roots and identity - of how your forefathers came to India and what made you an Indian today.

    While being an icon to many Indians around the globe, I hope you will become a household name too for other Asians, too.

    GO FOR IT!!!!!

    MW

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  14. Anonymous3:19 PM

    hey chang!!! it ws really nice to knw smethng abt old china.... :) m glad dat u r an indian. u hv been one of my fav ever since i saw u in indian idol. i really wish i cud meet u, bt cn't help....bt i hope dat it will happen soon!!!!

    take care....
    lots of love.....ur well wisher, OSHIN!!!

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  15. hiii chang,i must say u right so well.. not everyone can express there thoughts in such a way ,i think i love u more as a writer but u r jst perfect in everything u do..really.n frm ur previous posts too it seems u r tired of giving explainations to people about ur looks.. but i jst want to write k there r many Indians who wud do anything to leave there motherland n settle abroad.n ofcourse nobody questions them that are they really Indians?i feel so proud to say that u and i share same nationality.. n i knw it's not jst me.so jst don't think about that too much..

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  16. Hi Meiyang,

    Every person howsoever near or far from its core is curious...i too have always wanted to know life of my forefather's world...though here i know y they had to migrate from the western part of the greater India...but then their lifestyle and what they thought still makes me think.........:)

    America being a country of immigrants...every citizen no matter who it is....is an american and so does that b in India......v r very much part of this motherland no matter where r forefathers came from.

    This is the beauty of life.... u like and respect ppl who do..and forget those who dont....for they r only too immature.....:)


    Keep writing........,

    TC.

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  17. Anonymous2:02 PM

    Meiyang,

    You are not alone.... There are many Chinese like you - born, bred and educated in India have the same feeling and urge to find out their ancestry roots. I am one of them; however, for me personally - it no longer matters if the truth is ever unearthed. Since a long long time had elapsed, even the utmost honest answer will not excite or make any difference.

    On the same basis, I have ethnic Indian friends born in U.K., USA and South Africa for a few generations, having the same identity issue when trying to find out their roots and ancestry. None could speak or write any of the Indian languages.

    I think the big difference between an Indian-Chinese compared with an U.K, USA or SA born Indian is that the former will always be challenged based on the colour of their skin and surname to be Indian citizen. This is frustrating but should be understandable as not many Indians know that there is a large Chinese community once thrived and continue to exist in small numbers now across the states in India and more particularly in West Bengal (Kolkata). Historians have had well documented this and the fact is unquestionable and undeniable.

    So, stay happy and joyful to be Indian and honest to be who you are.

    Lastly, from your write-up above, I understand that you now have a number of Chinese or overseas Chinese followers outside of India domain. As you make your presense felt - making inroads into the International stage - I sincerely wish you luck and success. Just Do It !!!!!!

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  18. hii!!

    It was a nice read, informative! It must've been quite interesting for u i believe, hearing it all from ur dadi ji!!:) liked it!!

    Eesha

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  19. An interesting read. I bet you're are having fun learning about the history of your family and how they ended up in India. I hope you find the rest of the story. :-)

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  20. lol- love this pic of you in front of the board in chinese - it's like me telling everybody am NOT Indian and sometimes feigning i don't understand hindi(though i very well do!) ;)

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  21. hi meiyang chang,
    i'l have to say that m not a followee of ur blog! n saw it today for the 1st time..nonetheless i really enjoyed reading ur blog..
    saw u on indian idol...n then for these 3 years 4gt abt meiyang chang....but its grt to see u doing films n all sort of thngs...u r back on the screen n m happy!
    though m not much of a follower of indion idol as well, but il always rmbr one song u sang in that show- meri saanson mein from aur pyaas ho gaya!
    n as to WHY m writing a post on ur blog..well...u juz seems so interesting that i cudnt help but atleast wirte a post to u!
    neways,
    now toking LESS like a fan n MORE like a reader,
    Thankyou for writing this peace coz i always used to wonder this very thing about u!
    u wrote it very precisely n accurately ..placing the bits of the story very nicely!
    n i must now clear before n IF u even read my blog(the possibility is really low but i'd like to think you wud) that i m not meant to write!juz gave it a shot :)

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  22. I personaly feel that its not the country that your forefathers come from that matters, its the country whose food, people and culture resides in your heart.. our incredible india.

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  23. Hi Chang (as you were affectionately called on Indian Idol),

    I've followed your progress since Indian Idol, and let me say you were one of my favourites (how many times have you heard that already, right?). I've watched your film and followed your appearances on TV shows. I am not your fan but I do appreciate the talent you have (do I sound contradictory? ;) ). However, nothing prepared me for this - your blog. Its an absolutely different Chang from what I imagined or what the media portrays. Love the way you pen-down your feelings, your beliefs. You obviously have the gift as well as the penchant for writing.

    I just wrote this because I HAD to congratulate you on your exemplary writing skills. There are not many of us who express themselves with such lyrical eloquence. I hope you continue writing and wish you luck for your future.

    P.S. - Please, do let let us know when you next seek answers from your Gran on your lineage :) Loved this piece. It was like a peeking into history.

    Eva.

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  24. Really did wet my appetite to learn the answers to the questions you posed. Looking forward to the next portion.

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  25. You have an interesting insight for almost everything ;) You have an interesting sense of humor as well ;) I think I am just-a-tad bit infatuated with you but I should get over you because I do not even have a chance (I am soooooooooo sad... you have a girlfriend) :( ... hahah never-the-less you are very cute :P hehe well I would like to wish you the greatest of luck for your musical career and your acting and anchoring endeavors just as you had wished me for mine in our little conversation yesterday at the Pratham Concert with Alka ji :)

    You are so amazing (running out of adjectives to describe you with)... You have a certain "je ne sais pas" about you... It was great meeting you in person once and if destiny sides with me (for once haha)hopefully I might get another chance to meet you!!! I love you!!! You have the most amazing hugs in the universe!!! You have a very nice voice and you are very talented and quite versatile as well!!! Lastly, the best thing is that you are not at all arrogant, you are so humble and modest!!! You truly are incredibly amazing no doubt!!!

    Love,
    Shruti

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  26. Anonymous12:29 AM

    Hello Chang,

    I just watched BC, and was taken aback by the blatantly racist dialog (albeit jokingly) directed at your character Zing. But, I suppose in India people are more easy going about stuff like this. (New immigrants from India to North America learn very quickly to drop terms like negro, Red Indian, or chinky.) In a Western context, that dialog would be unacceptable. I do realize that the movie later makes a point when his friends finally accept Zing as an Indian. In any case, I can see that you command great admiration among your fans. I watched some of your Indian Idol performances on the Internet and was blown away. The novelty surrounding your ethnicity wears off. What remains is your raw talent and obvious love for popular Indian music. I grew up in northeastern India where there are many Indians of Chinese descent (none sang like you, I can safely say!). For us, people of your heritage were part of our ethno-cultural environment. But that’s not the case all through the rest of India. You’re doing a lot to remove those preconceptions. I salute you. You are a credit not only to young Indian-Chinese, but all young Indians in general. Best of luck with your search into your past. As the rastafarians say: if you don’t know where you’re coming from, you don’t know where you’re going.

    Regards
    JD
    Toronto

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  27. The last picture is really cute! Reminds me of my youngest brother who just looks blankly at my uncles and aunts when they speak Urdu to him.

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  28. Hey Chang,

    First of all Hats off to you man, you are really a very creative person, as we all know that you are a Dentist, Actor, Singer,Blogger and also a good dancer as well..And now coming to your blog, I came to know recently about your blog and I am surprised to see your posts, Especially this post, about your origin, I was curious to know about your fore fathers journey towards India, By the way I liked the photos taken by you , you said '' These photos are taken by a immature photographer but they are nice, I am glad to be a follower of your blog, AND HEY, I AM SAYING ALL THIS FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART , I MEAN FROM THE THE LEFT SIDE OF MY HEART LOL.All the best and keep going Chang.

    Please visit my blog www.defectiveseven.blogspot.com and if you like it then pls follow my blog.

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  29. Hi Chang
    I have been reading your posts from since quite long but on and off. I like the way you put your perspective of being a Chinese but still being the same as any average Indian. Especially your post 'The Chinki factor',about which I would say that you guys are adorable to me and I enjoy the fact that we get to witness such different culture and people in our country. How great it would be if discrimination of something different is replaced with appreciation, encouragement and is treated as something to cherish about.

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  30. Great post. I admit, that I had no clue there was a chinese settlement in India till you became a celebrity. For a country that says it embraces its diversity, it surprises me how much of this diversity we sweep under the rug, leaving the task of assimilation on the diverse population itself. On one hand, I think that might make an India better from a thoroughly race aware USA, where your race (and the entire dialogue around it) flash before the common man even before you can flash a smile. Yet, at the same time, India can also be slightly worse than places like the States as there is less of an effort to understand, and therefore censor ignorant remarks.

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  31. Anonymous2:29 AM

    rofl....:))) I like that picture

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