Wednesday, May 8, 2013

ON FOOT

Monday , May 06, 2013
Metro , page 20
Chinatown-Tiretta Bazar

The Chinese have been in my city since Job Charnock’s time but I would have remained oblivious of the community’s deep local roots had I not joined the group that set out to explore the old Chinatown and Tiretta Bazar on Sunday morning.

The community has even inspired the Bengali word for sugar — chini — because they had first produced it in the city. Dishing out such trivia and guiding us was Joseph Percy Ling, who chose the Chinese breakfast stalls as the first stop. Pity that nobody wanted to eat for fear of getting late!

A temple tour followed, starting with the Sea Ip Church, which houses the god of mercy and compassion. Those who wanted to know what the future held in store for them shook a bunch of wooden sticks until one fell off. Depending on the number on the stick, a piece of paper was handed out with predictions about the person’s future.

We proceeded to the Nam Soon temple, home to the “mad monk”, who earned the sobriquet because of his fondness for meat and wine. A room in the temple housed quite a collection of antique Chinese furniture.

Nanking Restaurant, which was apparently frequented by Shammi Kapoor, was the next attraction. On the floor above the closed restaurant, the Tong On Church was the highlight of the walk. Locals brought out dragon masks and treated us to dragon dance, which is usually performed during the Chinese New Year. Some of us even got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of trying our feet at dragon dance.

The final stop was Gee Hing Church, where community members were playing mahjong, which I felt was a complicated version of the popular card game, rummy. We also visited the place where the last rites of the Chinese are performed. Whether a body is cremated or buried depends on the person’s last wish.

                                                                             
Ritwik Sen




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