The Chinese in Secunderabad

STRONG PRESENCE Nanking's Suzy with his wife, John Yu Famou (right) who started the New Peking restaurant and the gen-next Chinese in the city

STRONG PRESENCE Nanking's Suzy with his wife, John Yu Famou (right) who started the New Peking restaurant and the gen-next Chinese in the city  

It is not place but people that make up the place that matter

In the early 20th century, China went through tumultuous times. A large number of people left their homeland and migrated to different places - a lot of Chinese people came to India and made their homes mainly in Kolkata. John Yu Famao was one such young man who left his home in North China and came to India with five pals, all in their early '20s. After touching base at Kolkata, they went to Mumbai and then came to Secunderabad in early '30s. For a few years they sold Chinese silks and other merchandise from door to door. Then in 1940 they started the first Chinese restaurant in Secunderabad - the New Peking.Secunderabad's well known Chinese restaurant, Nanking also has a colourful beginning. The present owner Liu Sze Yuan (called `Suzy' by his friends) says that his grandfather left China in 1920, set up eating joints in Bombay and Pune and then went back to Kolkata to set up a tannery. He died there a few years later, leaving behind a widow and a young son, Liu Kim Jem. Then when Liang set up John Lee's shoe shop in Hyderabad- the first Chinese shoe shop in the twin cities--- he called up Liu Kim Jem, Suzy's father, and asked him to come down to Secunderabad. He came and worked for a year with New Peking before he started his own restaurant and called it Nanking. Young Suzy was all of 11 years and was enrolled in St Patrick's for schooling.In the early '70s, the Liu family used to invite people to come into the kitchen as Hu Shuang Jung, Suzy's mother, used to be there everyday and she kept the place sparkling clean. She passed away a couple of years ago at 71 and till two years before her death, she used to supervise the kitchens daily. In fact, even Suzy (60) does that and also chips in with the cooking whenever there is a rush.

The next generation

Till about ten years ago, it was an accepted trend that the girls would join the beauty parlours being run by the Chinese women while the boys would get into the restaurant line since most of the shoe shops were already closed or were on the verge of closing down. It is heartening to note that there is a change in perception and like Suzy says, "There are so many opportunities in the twin cities today that the kids have become wise. They want to move out of the accepted lines of work and into more modern trends."Johnson Yu Shao Hua, one of the five sons of John Yu Famao, looks after the commercial aspect of the United Hatcheries -- a business venture of Suzy family. Diana Yu (22) is working in a call centre while Jacqueline Yu (22) is with the Bank of America. Simon (27) is in IT and Dominic Chung (27) is with ICICI Bank. Although Suzy never got beyond high school, his three boys are well educated. There are 72 Chinese families in Secunderabad and 50 percent of them are practicing Roman Catholics while the other 50 percent are Buddhists. They are happy that there is a Buddhist temple in Mahindra Hills. Earlier they maintained little temples at home, now they have scope to pray at a temple where others also come. For the practicing Catholics, they are free to worship at any of the churches dotting the city.SHYAMOLA KHANNA

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