Pei May Chinese School in Kolkata is striving hard to keep alive the tradition of a close-knit Chinese community.
Tangra region, popularly called `Chinatown` is home to thousands of local Chinese, famous for their culinary skills and restaurants serving mouthwatering ethnic cuisines.
The 75-year-old school, the only Chinese school in India, located in a narrow lane now booms with life as new batches of students fill the classrooms.
The community in recent times is combating the fast dying of traditions and culture amongst the new generation of whom more than half cannot read or write their mother tongue.
C T Lung, a veteran Chinese language teacher whose family in India dates back three generations, has taken up the job in an attempt to create interest among the younger generation in their culture.
It`s very important for our children to learn their mother tongue. It`s unfortunate if some one does not know his or her mother language. We are taking all efforts to teach them Mandarin so that they can develop a better understanding of Chin and its cultural heritage. It will also help them to read Chinese literary works,” said Lung.
Initially the school faced the problem of a shortage of texts, which are not available in India, but with the support of the Indian Chinese Association for Culture, Welfare and Development and the Chinese Embassy in India, they were brought in from Taiwan and China.
As part of the school curriculum, students are also taught Chinese literature and mathematics. These classes also give the children a chance to interact with one another and converse in Mandarin.
The young students are keen on learning their mother tongue.
“I want to learn Chinese language because even though I am staying in India I want to learn Chinese because I want to know more about my culture,” said Salena Chang, a young student.
Carol Young, another student said: “I want to learn Chinese because I want to know my mother tongue.”
The move has drawn full support of the parents.
The Chinese are the most prosperous of all the foreign communities that have settled in India. They made their way to the city during the late 18th century and by the mid 19th century had established themselves well as skilled industrious people.
There are as many as 7000 Chinese living in Calcutta city alone.