14 May 2006

South Asian Chinese voices

With India and China poised to become world superpowers, it’s time to reflect on their shared histories and tensions. Huan-Tsang, or Xuan-Zang, (aka Yuan Chang) came to central India ca. 645 CE after his travels through central Asia. He studied Sanskrit and collected Buddhist scriptures and later introduced Buddhism to China. Since then, thousands of Hakka Chinese families have lived in India. Generations grew up in India without first-hand knowledge of China. The 1962 Indo-China war changed all that. Many left India for Australia, UK, USA and Canada after the quite horrific restrictions placed on their rights but we have been unable to find any scholarly or literary accounts in English of their experiences. All we recall is Altaf Fatima's The One Who Did Not Ask published a few years ago. Her character is a Chinese pedlar in pre-partition India but, as the title indicates, he barely speaks. Is there anyone who can break this silence? It's important to learn about our common heritage while politicians bicker over glaciers and nuclear accords.

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