By Alok Joshi
“Twelve Sweet & Sour Years in China: True stories of an Indian” is a memoir about my experiential journey as an Indian in China, spanning over a period of 12 years, starting shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and ending just before the COVID-19 outbreak became a pandemic.
In this book, I have narrated my good, not-so-good and funny experiences at work and in daily life through interestingly true anecdotes in a simple language. It is the story of my survival and adaptability in an unfamiliar environment where everything is a challenge, be it food, language, mindsets, work culture and people’s attitudes and stereotyped perceptions about foreigners in general and Indians in particular.
To my utter surprise, common Chinese people know little about India and their knowledge, based on media reports, is often half-cooked or incorrect. To them India means Bollywood, poverty, caste-system, ill-treatment of women and overcrowded trains. The younger lot is however impressed by the IT strength of India and sings praises of what they call “smart Indians”. Similarly, Indians back home and elsewhere have limited knowledge about the Chinese people.
I would like to believe that I managed my daily life and work-related challenges rather smartly. Despite some sour experiences, I have no regrets about spending my long years in China. In fact, I came out with great memories and good impressions about the locals in general.
According to an old Chinese proverb, “It’s better to walk thousands of miles than to read thousands of books”. In some ways, this book brings to life that proverb. The story is unique because readers would like to know an insider’s honest account and first-hand impressions about China and Chinese culture. Not many Indians have worked and lived in China for over a decade in higher positions, especially being part of Chinese state-owned companies (where the author was the only foreign employee in the midst of thousands of Chinese staff). My story is relatable and, by the end of the book, you are likely to get a feeling that you too have worked and lived in China.
There are nine Chapters. Their titles are named using dining terminology like Soup (early surprises), Appetisers (taste of Chinese companies), Wine and dine fiasco, something sour (not-so-good experiences), Something sweet (good experiences), Something spicy (strange experiences), Recipe: Decoding the Dragon (related to Chinese culture), Hotpot: Indian curry+ Chinese noodles (India- China relationship) and finally Last course: Goodbye China.
The book was launched recently and paperback/ Kindle versions are available on Amazon.
(Alok Joshi is a management professional, writer/ editor from Garhwal with a multi-cultural background, with a varied experience of working in India (ONGC), Sudan, China and the Middle-East).