As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping get on with managing the complex nuances of statecraft and diplomacy in Mamallapuram on Friday, Zhu Pingping a 71-year-old sprightly woman from eastern China’s Jiangsu province has a more modest appeal to the two leaders – an appeal for help to find her long-lost Indian half-brother and his family.
A yellowing piece of paper with a name and a Kolkata address in Chinese is the only evidence that her father had an Indian family in the eastern Indian city in the early 1940s.
Zhu’s father, Zhu Keyong, a soldier for Kuomintang’s (KMT) Chinese Expeditionary Force had fought the Japanese in India and Myanmar in the early 1940s, and had stayed in Kolkata between 1942 and 1946.
Kuomintang was mainland China’s ruling party until 1949 when it was defeated by the now-ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).
During his four-year stay in Kolkata Zhu Keyong had married an Indian woman and fathered a son.
But in 1946, Zhu, in his ‘20s, returned to China, never to go back to India, losing touch with his family in Kolkata forever.
It would have stayed that way for him and the Chinese woman he married later in central China and for their children – a secret memory of a tumultuous time — but for one unexplained evening in 1986.
“One evening in 1986, my father called the family to the dinner table. Took out a piece of paper, wrote down a name and an address and said it was the name of his son and his address in Kolkata,” Zhu, who now lives in the city of Zhenjiang in Jiangsu province said.
He didn’t utter another word about his life in Kolkata and neither did he mention his son’s mother’s name.
That piece of paper on which Zhu Keyong wrote down the address from memory is the only clue to the past.
Two years later, Zhu Keyong died.
The son’s name translated from Chinese to Pinyin (Romanised Chinese characters) is Zhengxi Xiweiqixi.
Zhengxi, interestingly, means “to fight a war in the west”.
“It’s not a typical Chinese name. Just like Indian names, it is with a given name first and the family name second. And, Xiweiqixi is not a Chinese family name; maybe a transliteration of the son’s mother’s name,” an official from the Zhenjiang local government said.
The translated address reads like this: No. 7823 Huaxia Xincun (probably China Town), No. 973 Mosuosiji Road, Kolkata.
A number of people including Chinese and Indian experts who have researched the Chinese community in Kolkata and even members of the community were not able to zero in on the street.
That’s where Zhu Pingping hopes the government and local authorities with access to historical records, archives and old maps can step in.
“I had no time from the late 1980s until now to look for my brother and his family. My husband died young and I was busy raising my three children doing odd jobs. Now, they are settled, I am retired and I have the time to look for my brother, who should be in his ‘70s as well,” she told HT at her modest apartment in Zhenjiang.
“This is a touching story connecting members of a family in China and India,” the Zhenjiang foreign affairs office wrote to the Indian consulate in Shanghai earlier this year.
For Zhu Pingping, it’s about fulfilling his silent, secretive father’s last wish.
“I just want to find my brother or his family, if possible. I don’t want any money. I only want to fulfill my father’s wish though he didn’t say it – find his long-lost son, find my long-lost Indian brother”.