Talati House Hotel, Tientsin Sunday, Jul 28 2013 

Source: Internet

Source: Internet

Apart from Old Shanghai, British Indians made their way into other Chinese cities and treaty ports as well. Sindhi businessmen, Ismaili merchants and the Parsi community made significant gain in Old Shanghai and places like TsingTao/Qingdao and Tientstin/Tianjin.

Talati House Hotel, Tientsin was jointly run by  S B Talati and  his nephew Jamshed Talati and DhunjiShah*. S B Talati, a penniless Bombay businessman,  made his fortune in China, in Siberian fur trading and then went on to become the proprietor of the Talati House Hotel (now known as Tianjin First Hotel) in 1924/1929, on 246 Victoria Road.

After Japanese occupation, foreigners in Tientsin were interned in Weihsien civilian camp. The Talati and DhunjiShah family members were inmates of this camp till its liberation in October, 1945. The DhunjiShah family flew out of China. Talati, it seems stayed back, though his daughter Katy Talati escaped to London*.  Talati, in the internment camp had been sick and was given the choice for freedom (by the Japanese)  if he renounced his British citizenship, which he refused to do. After the communist takeover, Talati was asked by the Chinese government to pay his 100+ hotel staff in lieu of taxes. But, Talati very well could not pay as the hotel had no guests.  This ‘tax’ wrangle caused exhaustion and eventually his death.

Anecdotes and fragmented memories are all that’s left of the Talati and DhunjiShah’s China sojourn.  Books , oral and written histories provide a narrow glimpse of the Tientsin Indians. Too many Indian histories in China have been overlooked and remain unobserved.

*Further fact checking is required to outline the Talati and DhunjiShah family tree in China and properly identify the members.

Dhunjishahs evacuating Weihsien in October 1945. Wednesday, May 22 2013 

Dhunjishahs evacuating Weihsien in October 1945.

Many thanks to Angela Elliot for sharing this brilliant photo of the Tianjin Parsee family called Dhunjishahs, evacuating Weihsien in October 1945. Darab DhunjiShah was the co-owner of the Tientsin/Tianjin Talati hotel in China. Weihsien was the Japanese run internment camp during World War II to keep civilians of Allied countries living in Northern China

Mr Yuan: The Parsee Fire Temple caretaker Tuesday, May 21 2013 


Mr Yuan, on the right

Last year, in 2012, I was trying to understand the Parsees sojourn to China.  Traders and merchants apart from the famous ones like Sir Jamsetji Jijibhai, Readmoneys and Tatas also resided in Old Shanghai. The Shanghai Parsee community obviously grew enough to have an Agiary  to preserve and sustain the Parsee faith.  Away from home and family ties, Parsees needed their own worship place to celebrate festivals, keep the traditions alive by employing a Dastur for Parsee rituals, occasions and also to induct the young members to the Zoroastrian faith with the initiation Navjote ceremony.

I read about Sam Tata who was born in Shanghai and his photo collection on Shanghai. He emigrated to Canada and really not much was known of the community. Books, periodicals refer to them in mere passing or list their offices in business gazettes. Searches on these names hardly produce any data.  Dehulling however constantly presented a Chinese professor’s name.  A professor who had extensively studied the Parsee religion, traveled to India, had been refused admittance to the Bombay/Mumbai Agiary (non-Parsees are prohibited)  but invited for seminars in India & abroad to talk about the Parsee faith and his research.

Finally, we met and he was kind enough to introduce me to Mr Yuan who was the caretaker for the Shanghai Agiary, after all the Parsees had left or evacuated, after Japanese invasion in 1937 and thereafter. Mr Yuan worked for a businessman,one, S.M. Talati (no obvious connection to the Tianjin Talati family) and was entrusted to look after the Agiary. It was a very interesting meeting but one thing bothered me. Parsees are extremely particular about one little detail: No non-Parsees can ever step inside an Agiary, even in desperate times. So, it seemed odd that S.M. Talati had entrusted the task of the Shanghai Agiary upkeep to a non-Parsee. After discussing S.M. Talati’s family, I felt that the question had to be asked. The answer surprised me. It was a non-Parsee for sure but it was a Sikh gentleman:  Mr P.Singh, an official in the then Shanghai Indian consulate office, who was paying Mr Yuan, in case the Parsees returned to Shanghai. Unfortunately, they never did and S. M. Talati died a bankrupt man.

As for the Agiary, there’s a  mid-sized sky-scraper, some kind of a school, with gleaming windows in its place.

Cricket Club in Shanghai Thursday, May 9 2013 

Cricket Club in Shanghai

Interport cricket matches were held at this venue.

Freemasonry in Shanghai – Parsees Friday, Mar 1 2013 

Freemasonry in Shanghai - Parsees

The Masonic Hall served as the meeting ground for various freemasonry lodges registered in and around Shanghai. Affluent Parsees were also members of this society.

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