Kept in a pile of newspapers and you won’t notice a difference. It is only when you take a closer look that you notice the mandarin characters. Published out of the tannery neighbourhood of Kolkata, Tangra, The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India is the only Chinese language newspaper published in India. Tangra is popularly known as Chinatown owing to its large number of Chinese occupants.
The newspaper was established in March, 1969, by Lee Youn Chin, who apart from being a community leader was also a tanner, which is the reason why the newspaper’s headquarters is situated in the Chinese Tannery Owners Association’s office. The office for four hours a day and has no local correspondents as the news published in the newspaper focuses primarily on happenings in China. The news is usually sourced from Chinese news agencies or websites of news publications from China. The tabloid also includes city news petaining to the Chinese community in the are.
What is interesting and unique about the publication is how the newspaper is put together using primitive methods — all characters are individually cut and pasted on a translucent sheet of paper. Each page is then converted into a block that is used to print the final newspaper. Till 1988 the publication would have the characters handwritten in beautiful calligraphy. The delivery system too is reminiscent of the olden days. Each copy is hand delivered to the subscribers’ addresses, while some are couriered to readers in Mumbai and Chennai.
The tabloid also acts as a newsletter for the locals who use the publication as a platform to put out information about community events, obituaries and matrimonial advertisements.
Like all print publications world over The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India too has seen a considerable drop in number of subscribers. “We publish 200 newspapers daily, but only 180 are sold at a price of Rs 2.50 each. The subscription has dropped drastically over the years because of the young generation switching to English newspapers,” said editor and publisher K.T. Chang in an interview with Little India. But the fact that the newspaper has managed to survive for close to five decades is in itself pretty commendable.
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