21 October, 2020

Not Mei Lin’s Republic

A sweeping novel reaches back to an early Chinese worker in Assam, and tells the story of his hapless descendant and his kinsmen during the 1962 War

Not Mei Lin’s Republic
outlookindia.com
2018-03-31T13:06:58+05:30

In 1962, the ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ construct was splintered by the Sino-­Indian border conflict, sowing seeds of mistrust between the two neighbours. The war is remembered in many ways: as betrayal, as blunder, as political turning point, and as a continuing irritant in ties bet­ween the two nations. But what rem­ains a blip in memory is the tragic upheavals faced by the Chinese community in India. Thousands of Chinese settlers were forced to leave their homes overnight following a frenzy of anti-China sentiment and bundled off by train to a large internment camp in Rajasthan’s Deoli. Families were torn apart, properties confiscated, business establishments looted, livelihoods lost and the ethnic conclaves called Chinatowns reduced to ghost towns.

Rita Chowdhury’s Chinatown Days, an English translation of her acclaimed Ass­­amese work Makam, brings to life this shameful chapter. The novel wea­ves in mul­tiple strands of narratives, histories and timelines to bring a heart-rending tale of the...

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