The Overseas Chinese Commerce of India, or Seong Pow in Kolkata having suffered from the pandemic and its elderly editor’s death (not due to covid) in July of 2020 is now only a thing of the past given the very bleak chances of it springing back to life.
Flipping through the pages of history, we can pin point its roots in 1969 when Kolkata had a blooming Chinese diaspora with a sizable chunk’s vocation being the tannery business. Influential in that industry was Lee Youn-chin, who started the tabloid and allocated space for the newspaper in the Chinese Tannery Owners’ Association building on the New Tangra Road. However, his was not the first Chinese newspaper in India. That honour belongs to the Chinese Journal of India, which was first published in Kolkata in 1935 and bit the dust in December 2001.
Back in the initial days Seong Pow was written completely by hand. A Chinese desktop publishing machine did away with the need for handwritten pages in 1989 and, in 1997, the newspaper acquired a printing press. The four-page tabloid would carry international news on the front page, page two was a mix of China-specific news and that about Kolkata’s Chinese diaspora; page three contributed pieces on health care and stories for children; while page four bore news from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Moreover, it published birth, marriage, death announcements and listed social events.
From the 1980’s the daily circulation crumbled from 2,000 copies to 200 from before the commencement of the lockdowns. Back in one point around 30,000 Chinese people called Kolkata home, however, now Kolkata has only 2,000 Chinese residents. The current generation of these residents are inept in reading or writing Mandarin. While the previous generations would go to a Mandarin school, thus preserving the language, the Chinese youth of today knows Hindi or Bengali better than Mandarin.
With this gloomy prevailing situation and the furnitures and appliances reportedly stolen from the editorial office after the demise of the last editor Kuo-tsai Chang, it would be fair to say that Seong Pow is forever buried in the pages of history.