‘We Chinese Are Like Marwaris, We Value Business’

Alfred Lee, 50, a hotelier at Puri of Chinese origin, says Chinese people are businesspersons who don’t bother much about what’s happening on the international front. For him, Puri is the most beautiful place on the planet

We Chinese, are more like the Gujaratis or the Marwaris. We are attached to our roots and language but we also have a very sharp insight and ability to settle anywhere in the world if it makes business sense. Thus, you can find Chinese immigrants running businesses everywhere in the world.

I will refrain from commenting on the current relationship between India and China as this is a sensitive issue. All I can tell you is that I am a proud Indian with a Chinese origin; so is my extended family in other parts of the world. There is no place like Puri in the entire world to live. It is the most beautiful place on the planet. It is my home.

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During the British rule, people who lived in Hong Kong did business in India freely as there was no need of passports back then. Most of these Chinese nationals had business links with Kolkata via Hong Kong. The earliest Chinese settlers in India are those who came to Kolkata to do business and never returned. Many of my extended family members are in Canada doing the business but we chose to stay in India. 

Our family’s story is really beautiful. From Kolkata, my grandfather migrated to Puri and started a little eatery. He learnt the local language and mingled with the local people. We later shifted to a better place and now apart from running the most popular Chinese restaurant in Puri, we have a 32-room hotel. The Odiya people never treated us as outsiders as there was never a language barrier between us.

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All of my family, including the youngest one, speak very fluent Odiya. Our mother tongue is Cantonese, which we speak within the family but our second language is Odiya. We can also speak English and Hindi fluently which is required for our business. 

Every Chinese living in India or Hongkong or Singapore has two names – a Chinese name and a local name. The local name is easy to pronounce and helps us communicate better. So my local name is Alfred Lee, while my Chinese name is Lee Chung Hsing. This is how generations of Chinese people have worked – they aren’t much bothered about what’s going on the international front between India and China and other countries.

You can find Chinatown or Little China where a number of Chinese business people live in many of the large western cities like New York, Chicago, Toronto and others. This is the spirit of the people with Chinese origin. They are somewhat religious and do business very precisely. Our focus is on growing our business across the globe.

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