Culture Article #16: For the Joy of Sharing

A Peep Into China – Episode 1

By C.I. Sivasubramanian
Aged 96, Retired Director, Ministry of Commerce, New Delhi


Introduction by Venkat
Most of us hardly know China beyond the size, population, communism, ‘Made in China’ products’ and the headline news of troubles at the border. It is indeed refreshing to read the detailed account of the trip to China by Mr. Sivasubramanian – in particular on Shanghai in this episode. Never knew of South Indian vegetarian meals at Shanghai and Beijing! Written in his usual pleasant and lively style, this is a wonderfully informative series for all readers. Eagerly looking forward to the next episode!

A Peep Into China – Episode 1

China is a vast country, by size, population and economy. Its borders touch a number of countries, including India. Western and northern China are ice-bound or barren and there is no or just sparse population. Most of the population lives in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Hong Kong lies on the eastern coast. China used to be a ‘closed’ country for a long time. People from other parts of the world were hesitant to visit this country because of its communist regime and strict regimentation. The population is restricted by the one-child norm.

But in recent times it has opened up, made great strides in its economy. Its products reach almost all countries. Products from other countries also are available in China. People in other parts of the world are now curious to know about China and have started visiting this country. Indians have already started small businesses there. Can you imagine that we get good South Indian vegetarian meals in Beijing and Shanghai?

Our six-hour flight was uneventful, and we arrived at the Shanghai (pronounced Shanhai with a light touch on the syllables) airport at 1230 hours, local time. Shanghai is 2-1/2 hours ahead of Delhi. We were met by a charming young lady called Angela, our tourist guide in Shanghai. Some of us changed some dollars into Yuans (the Chinese currency) at the rate of eight Yuans per dollar. Officially the Yuans were known as RMB or Renminbi. Incidentally, some of the Chinese traders accept dollars too.




Shanghai, on the east coast of China, is divided into two parts, East and West, by the river Huang Pu. The West is more developed than the East, with high rise buildings, just like New York. All commercial and industrial activities take place here. After refreshing ourselves in the hotel ‘Zhong Ya’, we went on a cruise in the river in the late evening. The boat was quite big and accommodated more than thousand tourists. Looks like tourists from other parts of China visit this city often, just as in Russia, where several tourists from other parts of the country make a beeline for Moscow. The buildings on either side of the river, in different shapes and heights, were illuminated and produced a grand panorama. Even small boats plying on the river were illuminated. The TV tower and the tallest building (Jing Mao) in Shanghai both lay on the banks of this river. We took several snaps of the buildings – and people on the boat. Later, we dined at the ‘Delhi Durbar’ where we were fed sumptuously. It is great that we get good Indian vegetarian food in China.

Early next morning, some of us went for a short stroll around the hotel. The Shanghai Railway Station was close by, as also the Metro. We saw several groups engaged in morning exercises. ‘Tai Chi’, a branch of ‘Kung Fu’, is just like our yoga and several people practise this. It appeared that at the railway station, relatives and friends of the passengers were not allowed at the platform. Several of them were waiting outside the Station in a large quadrangle. There were also people lounging in corners with nothing else to do – and beggars. It presented a picture like at the Churchgate of Mumbai.

The tourist package included hotel accommodation in 3-star hotels, breakfast and dinner. Dinner was arranged in Indian restaurants. We had to pay for our lunch and any other necessities. After breakfast, we were taken to a place called the ‘Bund’. The Bund is a long corridor along the River Huang Pu, similar to the embankment in Los Angeles where we had walked around. There were several tourists and photographers. The photographers take quick pictures of tourists with a nice background (like the TV tower) and hand over the print within 10 minutes. It was a roaring trade for them. We also took several pictures of the river and the buildings and got ourselves photographed professionally.

To be continued…

By C.I. Sivasubramanian
Aged 96, Retired Director, Ministry of Commerce, New Delhi


Mr. Sivasubramanian hails from Coimbatore. He has been living in Delhi throughout life. He was employed with the Government of India, Ministry of Commerce and retired as Director in 1986.

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