A Dental Bridge

An old occupation brings together generations of a Chinese immigrant family in Chennai

01 May 2012
Albert Yen and his father Yen Miesin at their house in Chennai.
SARANYA CHAKRAPANI FOR THE CARAVAN
Albert Yen and his father Yen Miesin at their house in Chennai.
SARANYA CHAKRAPANI FOR THE CARAVAN

AS THE ONLY CHINESE STUDENT in Chennai’s St Bedes Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School in the late 1980s, Albert Yen’s lunchbox drew much attention. Albert devoured his homemade noodles amidst gawking peers who suspected him to be eating snakes. This barely a few years before Maggie Noodles became the staple lunch snack in schools. Albert can’t remember a time when he felt less Indian than his peers in his 42 years in Chennai.

Albert’s attachment to India is a legacy from his father, Yen Miesin, now 69, whose most vivid childhood memories are of trams chugging along the roads of a much older and emptier Madras.

Their family is a part of the small Chinese community in Chennai, many of whose members fled China at the onset of Communist rule in the 1950s. The Yen family’s Chennai story, however, goes back even further.

Saranya Chakrapani writes for magazines and dailies on arts, culture and travel. Previously, she worked with The New Indian Express in Chennai.

Keywords: history family immigration Chennai Chinese immigrants dentistry dentists Madras
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