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India House: Insurance or Information?

๐˜ฟ๐™ž๐™™ ๐™ฎ๐™ค๐™ช ๐™ ๐™ฃ๐™ค๐™ฌ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™„๐™ฃ๐™™๐™ž๐™– ๐™ƒ๐™ค๐™ช๐™จ๐™š ๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง๐™จ๐™š๐™˜๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™ค๐™› ๐™‚๐™–๐™ฉ ๐™‡๐™š๐™—๐™ช๐™ ๐™‚๐™š๐™ง๐™š๐™Ÿ๐™– ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™‡๐™š๐™—๐™ช๐™ ๐™‹๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™–๐™ž ๐™ฌ๐™–๐™จ ๐™ค๐™ฃ๐™˜๐™š ๐™– ๐™ฅ๐™ง๐™ค๐™ฅ๐™–๐™œ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™๐™– ๐™˜๐™š๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™š๐™ง ๐™›๐™ค๐™ง ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™š๐™™ ๐™Ž๐™ฉ๐™–๐™ฉ๐™š๐™จ ๐™„๐™ฃ๐™›๐™ค๐™ง๐™ข๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ค๐™ฃ ๐™Ž๐™š๐™ง๐™ซ๐™ž๐™˜๐™š (๐™๐™Ž๐™„๐™Ž) ?

๐ด๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘ก ๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘š๐‘’, ๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ฆ ๐‘–๐‘™๐‘™๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘’๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘ก๐‘’ ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘’๐‘ ๐‘’ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘”โ„Ž๐‘ก ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘ข๐‘–๐‘™๐‘‘๐‘–๐‘›๐‘” โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘’๐‘‘ ๐‘Ž๐‘› ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ ๐‘ข๐‘Ÿ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘๐‘’ ๐‘๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘ฆ, ๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘™๐‘ฆ ๐‘‘๐‘ข๐‘’ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘›๐‘ฆ๐‘š "๐‘ˆ๐‘†๐ผ๐‘†", ๐‘คโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘โ„Ž ๐‘ ๐‘œ๐‘š๐‘’โ„Ž๐‘œ๐‘ค ๐‘š๐‘Ž๐‘‘๐‘’ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘š ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘–๐‘›๐‘˜ ๐‘ก๐‘œ ๐‘š๐‘’๐‘Ž๐‘› "United States Insurance Service".


India House. Credit Source: Wikipedia.

Designed by S.N.A.S Sockalingam Chettiar and completed on 1941, India House is an art deco style building located at the heart of the George Town Unesco World Heritage Site. Upon completion, the building was left empty until 1945 due to the World War II.

After the war, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) occupied the building until 1953, while waiting for the reconstruction of its former headquarters to be completed.


Then, India House was used by the United States to accommodate the Lincoln Resource Centre of the United States Information Service (USIS) until the 1970s.


A close-up of the signage, which features an elephant's head. Credit source: GTWHI



USIS is an important agency during the cold war to collect intelligence information and spread propaganda information to benefit the United States, among other goals such as:

  • To explain and advocate U.S. policies in terms that are credible and meaningful in foreign cultures;

  • To provide information about the official policies of the United States, and about the people, values and institutions which influence those policies;

  • To bring the benefits of international engagement to American citizens and institutions by helping them build strong long-term relationships with their counterparts overseas;

  • To advise the President and U.S. government policy-makers on the ways in which foreign attitudes will have a direct bearing on the effectiveness of U.S. policies. According to oral history, during the time when USIS moved into the India House, the building had a state-of-the-art computer, one that is so big it occupied the entire floor!

Interestingly, many illiterate local Chinese often confused the building to house an insurance company instead, probably due to the acronym "USIS", which somehow made them think to mean "United States INSURANCE Company".



A lost gem: A visual of the former HSBC building circe 1906, with its beautiful domed tower. At that time, it was the tallest building in Penang and the first building to be fitted an electric lift. This unique building was demolished in 1948 to make way for a "modern" building.


The bank moved to the India House temporarily while waiting for the new modern building to be completed.


Credit Source: Jamil Othman (Facebook)

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