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coastal Chinese provinces, Guangdong and Fujian, had many of their people

leave for foreign shores. And both these two provinces have contributed to
the building of the Chinese community in Calcutta just as the Chinese have
contributed to the building of Calcutta. One of the contributions the Chinese
of Calcutta made to the city was the introduction of rickshaws. From the
time of their debut just after the turn of the century, these large-wheeled goanywhere vehicles were used almost exclusively by the Calcutta Chinese.
Back then, one of the places well known to rickshaw pullers was the Sea Ip
Buddhist Temple built in 1905. A place of worship even today, its little
known outside the Chinese community and somewhat obscured by masses
of pavement dwellers who have erected tents in front of its old entry doors.
Some of the citys 20,000 or so Chinese residents still come to offer their
devotions before the altar. Others come to solemnise a marriage or say
farewell to a loved one. The latter event is more frequent than the former as
young Chinese leave by heading for Canada, the United States and Taiwan.
Reasons for their discontentment range from a lack of employment
opportunities, made even more difficult by inflexible union laws banning
Chinese from working in large factories and even in certain industries, to
government restriction on marriage to a Chinese from another country and
prohibition on bringing the bride or groom back to India. Registration
permits requiring costly renewal for some Chinese are another issue of
contention. This is especially true for ageing Chinese who may have lived
in the country for decades but never able to acquire Indian citizenship or
obtain an Indian passport.
The only Chinese-owned newspaper is The Chinese Journal of India. There
is nothing controversial about the journal as subtle controls are placed on the
newspaper. For instance, the Indian government doesnt allow the paper to
employ reporters. Consequently, it merely translates relevant news items
printed in the citys leading dailies from English to Chinese. Just several
hundred copies come off from the printing press daily with some very few
copies posted overseas. This doesnt leave many papers for other Chinese
already scattered and living elsewhere in India. But regardless of where the
journal is sent, to overseas or to varied places in the vast country of India,
readers are always eager to read the latest from Kolkata. Whether they live
in Mumbai, Bangalore or Chennai, where there are just 20 or so families
scattered around the city, many have links to Kolkata be they business or
ancestral. Few are able to show such fortitude in the face of discrimination.