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Michael Stephen

michael Michael StephenAlone in a crowd, living in a church, in the middle of a busy commercial street. This is the story of Michael Stephen, an Armenian living in Chennai. The sole reminder of a once flourishing Armenian community in Chennai, he is the caretaker of the Armenian Church in Georgetown.

Michael is a third generation Armenian. His great grand parents were successful jute merchants, settled in Dhaka. His parents moved to Bangalore and still live there. Michael was selected by the Armenian Association to take over as the caretaker of the Armenian Church in Chennai in 1995. Ever since he has been living in the church, passionately involved in maintaining the three-century-old church and its serene gardens.

Armenians are a forgotten race of people, in India. They first came to India in the 17th century, and established themselves as merchants. Their population in Chennai alone was 800 then. Now, only 150 Armenians live in the whole of India, most of them in Calcutta, where the Armenian Association is located.

Michael says that people in Chennai are not aware of the Armenian connection in their history, he hopes that the population of Armenians increases to carry on their rich tradition. But the situation looks grim, even though the Indian and the Armenian Governments are encouraging Armenians to settle in India.