THE SUNFLOWER beauty salon on Russel Street in Kolkata has been gutted for renovation, but a row of elegant Indian ladies sits perched inside its temporary digs, an air-conditioned cargo container. The hairdressers, sisters-in-law named Winnie and Patsy, snip away while chatting to their clients in Hindi, Bengali and English—and to each other in Hakka, a language of southern China. Prettified heads can look through makeshift windows at signs in Chinese across the street, which announce the Shanghai Company, a laundry in an art-deco pile from the 1930s. At the street corner a club offers a Chinese thali, a form of trans-Himalayan fusion cuisine. In the city’s two Chinatowns red lanterns herald Taoist temples and clan associations.
Kolkata has long been home to India’s largest Chinese