“Tucked away in a corner of 6 New Tangra Road, is the quaint premise of the Chinese Tannery Owners Association, from where The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India has been published and operated for years now. For the local Chinese population, this is a place of pride.”
That Kolkata is a melting pot of different cultures is no surprise. It is a matter of great pride that our joyous city houses the maximum members from the Chinese community in India.
The Chinese are respected and known for their hard-work and dedication and this is best proved through their tireless efforts in keeping their native culture alive through the generations and at the same time throwing open their doors for one and all from Kolkata.
We all know there is so much more to the ancient Chinese community in Kolkata than just the restaurants we love flocking to and the proof of that is The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India -the only Chinese newspaper in India still alive.
The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India
The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India is a four-paged tabloid form newspaper exclusively for the dwindling Chinese community in Kolkata (some copies are also mailed to Mumbai and Chennai). The newspaper has a special edition on the occasion of the Chinese New Year.
Where’s my copy?
Now mind you. Before you go scampering off, this daily is not available with the local newspaper boy/vendor. It is personally delivered, everyday, to the members of the Chinese community who have subscribed to it.
The local Chinese community, especially the older generation,is almost addicted to this paper.
The Charm Factor
As import of Chinese types/ fonts is banned, the newspaper is handwritten. Each page is then made into a block and printed.
“The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India, is the only daily newspaper in the world to be handwritten.”
The four-paged newspaper, started in March 1969, by Lee Youn Chin, a community leader and an eminent tanner, carries stories selected from national and international papers and is translated into Chinese by Chen Ling. The paper also receives direct feeds from Chinese papers and news agencies as well as the Chinese embassy. Relevant news items are also picked up from television or radio.
It carries news articles picked from the morning English papers. The articles are translated from English to Chinese and are then copied by the editorial staffers. This means that the news is not new and is often trivial.
The presidential elections in the US would definitely make the front page, but so would the inaugural of a new Chinese restaurant. It is, therefore, not uncommon to find one full-page of the daily devoted to an article by a local housewife on the dangers of drinking unboiled water.
With no other source, these occasional contributions are keenly awaited and prominently displayed. The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India also acts as a newsletter for the Chinese living in the city as well as those scattered in other parts of India.
Births, deaths, engagements, marriages and other social events are all advertised in the paper
K.T. Chang, editor of the Overseas Chinese Commerce of India, at his office. Photo by Indranil Bhoumik/Mint.
Between the years 1960-1980, when Kolkata had many members from the Chinese community, the newspaper was thriving. Now there are not more than 200-300 families.
Though it hopes to carry on, the newspaper is finding it difficult to survive with the depleting Chinese population.
The circulation of the paper has dropped from at least 800 when it started in 1969 to 180, as fewer youngsters are taught to read the language,
Sold at a rate of Rs.2.50, The four-page paper earns its revenue from advertisements announcing marriages and other social events in the neighbourhood.
Language is the critical thread that weaves them together, besides customs. They encourage young Chinese children to learn to write their names in Chinese.
Christopher, a keen reader of the newspaper says, “This may just be a Chinese newspaper for few but for us it is what keeps our language alive.”