So for those of you who have been keeping up with AIDCI’s website and Facebook page, the documentary “From Border to Border” is finally accessible to viewers outside of Taiwan! Chung Shefong, a documentary-maker/professor/record label owner based in Taipei, collected these narratives from the remaining Chinese-Indian community in Kolkata and a few hill towns. When you get a chance, check out the film. I had the privilege of watching this film come together at the final stages, while I was visiting Shefong and hanging out with her crew at Chung Trees & Music. The film is primarily about the ethnic relations between ethnic Chinese and the Indian community, and Deoli is of course a major part of the history. A number of other issues are couched within inter-ethnic relations though–gender norms, arranged marriage, occupational status and migration.
But most importantly, the documentary seems to bring up some pivotal questions: Will ethnic Chinese in India always be perpetual foreigners? Is there a way to reconcile 1962’s history without forgetting it?
But moreover, what does 1962 in India teach us about other overseas Chinese communities? And on a larger scale, what about marginalized communities that once saw the US, Canada, the UK, Australia (pretty much Western “democracies”) as destinations for freedom? These questions have surfaced in the last few weeks as I’ve reflected over current events including Ferguson and Michael Brown, the Eric Garner case, Emilie Grace Olsen’s suicide, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu’s deaths. Working on my thesis on restaurant kids and the way in which ethnicity is more often appropriated than appreciated in the US have also fed these sentiments of alienation. One thing seems to be consistent in both my parents’ upbringing abroad and my upbringing in the US though: the failure to speak about these transgressions yields a failure to empathize and seek to understand how our stories are actually very, very similar.