When Indian national Prem Purswaney arrived in Taiwan, like many expats he only intended to stay for a short time. That was 23 years ago.
Prem, born in Rajasthan, but raised in Dubai, arrived in October 1985 to do a short-term apprenticeship with his uncle’s trading company.
Before long, six months had turned into six years. Then, in 1992 he met Priya, a fellow Indian living in Taiwan, who he married two years later.
The couple now have two children, a daughter, 10, and a five-year-old son — both born here — and are still in Taiwan. A place they have come to love and now call home.
“We even get homesick when we return to India to see our family,” Priya said.
Back in the early days, Prem said, Taiwanese people knew little about India and he often got annoyed at the stereotypes he faced whenever he took a taxi.
“Drivers would often ask why I ate with my hand, why Indian women had spots [bindis] on their forehead and about the hot and spicy food,” he said.
Nowadays, the same drivers are more likely to ask him about the IT industry and India’s expertise in computer software.
This is a sign of how things have changed, and the increasingly close relationship that has formed between the two countries as ties have increased over the last two decades.
“When our office opened in 1995, there was very little bilateral trade,” India-Taipei Association Director General T. P. Seetharam said.
By 2006, annual trade had grown to US$2.8 billion. Last year that figure had increased to US$5.38 billion.
“But there is still much room for improvement,” he added.
Surprisingly, software — considered one of India’s strengths — isn’t a large contributor to its trade with Taiwan.
Seetharam puts that partly down to language differences and the fact that Indian software companies usually concentrate on Western markets.
But, he added, there are many other exchanges, both industrial and academic, in high-tech fields such as biotechnology and materials technology.
These exchanges have led to a mini influx of Indians into Taiwan, with small groups of Indian nationals springing up in several locations near the country’s larger universities, most notably in Hsinchu and Taipei.
“There are almost 100 Indian scientists alone at Academia Sinica,” he added.
Rajendra Prasad Janapatla, 32, from Hyderabad, has been in Tainan for three years conducting post-doctoral research in microbiology at National Cheng Kung University.
Raj, as his friends call him, said he enjoys life in Taiwan as it is much less hassle than in India, although he believes the locals, though friendly and helpful, are too shy when it comes to socializing with foreigners.
Like most expats here, Raj also has a few complaints.
“Many Indians complain that they only get seven days paid vacation per year,” he told the Taipei Times by e-mail. “Visa extensions are also annoying,” he said, “because if a contract is for 12 months, the authorities only give you 12 months, not one or two months extra like in the US or Europe.”
In addition to these high-tech newcomers, “There are two major Indian communities which have been here for longer,” Seetharam said.
First, there is “a community of traders — who buy and sell things around the globe,” he added. This community (which speaks the Sindhi language) used to have around 200 families, but now numbers only 40 or 50 as the majority of them have migrated to China, mainly to Guangzhou, along with Taiwan’s manufacturing.
Another, similar-sized, group is made up of families in the diamond and precious stones trade who sell their wares to Taiwanese jewelers.
Despite the increased contacts, it may surprise many to learn that according to official immigration figures, as of last August there were only around 1,900 long-term Indian residents in Taiwan — although this number had increased from 1,400 a year earlier.
Even so, signs of an increased awareness of India and its culture are visible on the streets of Taiwan’s cities.
Yoga is one of the most obvious examples, with schools devoted to the ancient art literally on every other corner. Inspiration from Bollywood movies, meanwhile, has seen Indian dancing gain an increasing number of devotees.
Indian fashions are popular among the young and can be purchased at most night markets, while those who fancy some pampering can check into one of the many ayurvedic spas that are cropping up in big hotels and beauty salons nationwide.
Chengchi University is working on a textbook about India — its politics, economics and culture — with the aim of helping the nation’s university students gain a deeper understanding of this giant melting pot of a country.
Then there is Indian food, which can now be found at more and more locations across Taiwan.
“Even the Indian fare on offer at some of Taipei’s Western restaurants is pretty authentic,” Purswaney said.
With so much bilateral contact these days, it seems the only stereotypes Indians in Taiwan like Purswaney will have to put up with in the future will be positive ones.
POINT-BLANK RANGE: Reporters and camera people from several outlets say police officers in Minneapolis had fired tear gas and rubber bullets directly at them Multiple journalists on the ground in Minnesota said they were teargassed and subject to other attacks by police on Saturday evening, a day after the widely condemned arrest of a CNN reporter live on air. Los Angeles Times journalist Molly Hennessy-Fiske, who was reporting outside the Fifth Precinct in Minneapolis, said she was with a group of about a dozen journalists when the Minnesota State Patrol “fired tear gas canisters on us at point blank range.” “I was saying: ‘Where do we go?’ They did not tell us where to go. They didn’t direct us. They just fired on us,” she said
For nearly a decade, the UN Security Council has been frequently paralyzed by Russia’s obstinacy over the Syrian crisis. Today, however, it is the US-China rivalry that has infected a growing array of issues, according to officials and diplomats. As recently as 2017, an understanding between Washington and Beijing allowed the UN on three occasions — involving separate sets of economic sanctions — to project international unity in the face of the North Korean nuclear threat. Three years later, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a ferocious competition erupt between the UN’s two main contributors, prompting UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on May
HISTORIC FLIGHT: The astronauts named their capsule ‘Endeavour,’ after the space shuttle on which they both flew, while Elon Musk said he was overcome with emotion Two veteran NASA astronauts headed for the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday after Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Saturday became the first commercial company to launch a rocket carrying humans into orbit, ushering in a new era in space travel. SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard blasted off flawlessly in a cloud of bright orange flames and smoke from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, for a 19-hour voyage to the space station. “Let’s light this candle,” Hurley, the mission commander, told SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, before liftoff at 3:22pm from NASA’s
INDIA Pride to be preserved The nation would not let its “pride be hurt” in its latest border flare-ups with China, but is determined to settle the dispute through talks, Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh said in a television interview late on Saturday. “Situations arise with China. It has happened before,” Singh said, adding that the government was striving to make sure “tension does not escalate.” The government has turned down US President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate, he said. IRAN Speaker says talks futile Newly elected Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf yesterday said that any negotiations with the US would be “futile.” The nation’s