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Made in Taiwan: A postcard from 1995!

October 4, 2018

It was the summer of 1995. I was in Taipei, face to face with my local accomplice Tom’s friend. We exchanged our name cards and had a handshake. As if anticipating the query, he said “Yes, I am Gandih King”.

“What a remarkable name”, I said.

“It is the same as Gandhi”, said Gandih.

It was not turning out to be very helpful!

But he soon came to my rescue. In the process I had some glimpses into the story of his life. The family had escaped the uprisings in China and landed in Calcutta – his birthplace. Soon after he was born, he said his father heard about Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination on the radio. Thus the name. The father spelt him the way he spoke it!

Having come this far, I ventured a little further.

“What about the other half of your name”? Before I could draw any other plausible conclusion he interjected ” That’s my real family name”. After all he did have a swadeshi component.

I was barely recovering when the driver of the cab we had gotten into got involved into an animated discussion with Tom. It is nothing unusual in Taipei. What is unusual is how they simultaneously navigate the dug up roads readying for the upcoming underground, also smoke without your permission and effortlessly glide over a random earthquake tremor. But quite unlike Singapore or even Ho Chi Minh City – they know no English here.

“I just replied to the cabbie that you are an Indian”, confirmed Tom. However, I suspected that the conversation was actually a little more elaborate.

And then, “Why are there so many crows near your airport?” was a bit of a googly for Tom who had never visited India.

“What does he mean – has he been somewhere in India?”, this was my turn to ask.

Some dialogue and then followed the interpretation, “He cannot remember which city it was. Yes, he has gone to your country many many years back when he was a sailor.”

While he drove and yapped, boy he would swerve from one lane to the other. Even try eye contact with both of us through the rear view.

” Please tell him he drives just like a sailor”, I said to Tom.

He took that as a compliment. And broke into a wild laughter.

” I like the Indian style driving – very exciting”, he conveyed. Perhaps as a return compliment. He insisted on shaking hands as we parted. Some vigorous shake that was.

There was more yet to come.

That evening some friends invited me over a cocktail organised by an Indian Association of sorts.

They were felicitating the head of the newly set up Indian Trade office in Taiwan. I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet a lot of people at one place.

So I found myself mingling into a big crowd. Exchanging courtesies. Just then “I am Vinod Khanna”, said this Bollywood namesake. A retired diplomat. The suave gentleman was the one taking over as the head of the trade office.

The name was bound to evince a lot of curiosity. And it did.

I cannot conclude without telling you what Tom narrated happened to him in New York, where he was on a one year study leave. Tom is a Taiwanese business associate and gets along very well with the small Indian trading community in Taipei.

“One day I bought a newspaper from an Indian hawker in New York who wouldn’t accept any money. Then he says “Tom, don’t you remember me? You used to visit our office in Taipei.” For Tom Ko this was the strangest thing that had ever happened.

Strangely enough, for me it was an overdose of Made in India stuff. Made in Taiwan!!!

 

 

 

 

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