Finally, the city will have its own Chinatown. The state tourism development corporation and the tourism board of Kunming in south-east China’s Yunnan province have entered into an agreement to jointly promote Tangra as a tourist destination and develop it along the lines of the famous Chinese hubs in London, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto, Manchester, Bangkok and Sydney.
West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) managing director TVN Rao confirmed that the state was ready to take the first step in promoting Tangra as a Chinatown‘ destination by building two gateways of typically Chinese architecture.
The gates will be set up at the two major entry points to Tangra to the west and south. While the western gate will be at the intersection of Christopher Road and Gobinda Khatick Road, the southern gate will be at the entry-point to Chinatown from JBS Halden Avenue, popularly referred to as Park Circus connector to the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass.
“Tangra already has a Chinese flavour with the presence of a vibrant Chinese population and scores of restaurants serving excellent Schezwan and Manchurian cuisine. Adding popular symbols and icons will give it the character of an authentic Chinatown and further enhance the flavour,” said Rao.
To ensure that the gates are architecturally authentic, WBTDC sought assistance from Kunmin mayor during his visit to Kolkata last month. Mao Siwei, Chinese consul general to Kolkata, has assured to pitch in. “We will be only too glad to offer any help required to promote a Chinatown in Kolkata,” he said.
The pagoda-style gates will be intricately carved with dragons and other Chinese figurines. To ensure authenticity and accuracy, only Chinese architects and craftsmen will work on it. Signposts and boards much like the ones seen in London’s Chinatown will be in Mandarin, English and Bengali.
WBTDC is also keen to build a community centre-cum-opera house with distinct Chinese architecture at Tangra but has been unable to negotiate a deal for land.
“A community centre would have been great to showcase traditional Chinese opera and cinema. It could also act as a training centre for martial arts and other Chinese performing arts. Though the Chinese are enthused about it, the inability to identify a plot has forced us to drop this project now,” explained Rao.
It so happens that a troupe from Kunming will perform at the state tourism festival in Kolkata early next month. Twenty-five performers will put up a scintillating show at Nalban on January 8 and 9. “This is the first time such a show will be presented before the public,” said Rishab Bapna of event management firm Cherry Tree.
The cost for the gates and the signposts is pegged around Rs 90 lakh. The Union tourism ministry has sanctioned Rs 10 lakh and the tourism department has agreed to fund the rest. “We have agreed to fund the project. If Tangra is redeveloped in a phased manner, it can emerge as a complete Chinatown,” tourism minister Manab Mukherjee said.
He has already held a round of talks with the Chinese community to assure them of the government’s intentions and hopes future talks will further boost their confidence and help realize the dream.
“No other city in India has a flourishing Chinese population. It is for Kolkata to harness the advantage and create a destination,” the minister said.
Large sections of the Chinese community acknowledge that they would have to redevelop Tangra to exploit the full potential of a Chinatown.
“The young generation would love to live in India but are migrating because they see no future here. If a Chinatown comes up with restaurants, hotels, parlours and stores, it will be a major tourist draw and entice the youth to come back,” said Big Boss owner Hsieh Ying Hsing.
While the strategic location of Tangra between Salt Lake and Kolkata proper is perfect for such a development, the lure of high gains if land is sold out to private developers and short-term losses that one would have to entail if a redevelopment is to take place is what is holding such ambitions at bay.
“The community is currently divided on the issue. In the absence of a clearly-defined leader, it will take a lot of persuasion to push the idea through,” said a community member on conditions of anonymity.
The urge for survival has driven Chinese residents at Territty Bazar, the original Chinatown, to forward makeover proposals to Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
“We plan to set up road signs in Chinese to identify Dr Sun Yet Sen Street and Lu Hsun Sarani. A bust of Lu Hsun, a revolutionary intellectual, has been donated by Shiao Xing City, the birthplace of Lu Hsun. We have identified a spot with the KMC to install the statue,” said Indian Chinese Association president Paul Chung.
Source: Times of India