Manjit Singh, who lives in San Giovanni near Verona, twice came to the Sangat Sahib Gurdwara in Sint-Truiden to do katha, and we became friends. He is in his thirties and speaks Panjabi and English.
He invited me to come and visit him in Italy, and meet with the Sikh communities there. As I did not fancy the Ryan Air flight from Charleroi to Verona I decided to go by train, which is at least twice as expensive. For 250 Euro I bought a ticket to Verona Puerta Nova, valid from any Belgian station, via Brussel and Paris.
From Sint-Truiden I took the ordinary IC train to Brussel Midi, changed there for the Thalys (high speed train) to Paris Nord, then by metro from Paris Nord to Bercy (change at Chatelet) and from Bercy by ‘train à couchettes’ to Verona.
In a train ‘train à couchettes’ you travel in a compartment that seats six people, which at night is converted into a compartment with six beds. I am not a good sleeper, not even in my own bed, but at least you do not have to sit up all night. My fellow passengers were a French couple, a young Italian lady and two even younger ladies who were Chinese, Korean or Japanese. As is mostly the case on these trips at the end of the night you are a bit like a little family.
This train was non-stop between Paris and Milano. All went well as far as Milano Centrale, reasonably well between Milano and Brescia and became real Italian between Brescia and Verona, where we arrived at about 10.00 am instead of 7.25. This was mainly due to a long and unexplained period of non-movement between Brescia and Verona.
From Verona I took a bus to the wrong San Giovanni, and had to return to Verona from where I went by local train to San Bonifacio. Two Singhs met me there and walked me to the local Gurdwara, the Associazone Guru Nanak, Mission Seva Society.
I met with a Granthi and a Pardhan who both spoke English. They recently had a change of committee, and the old Pardhan and the new one were peacefully sitting in the same room. These are un-Sikh practices, I must bring it to the notice of the Akál Takhat Jathedar and request him to issue a hukamnama against it.
My best encounter of the afternoon was with four girls who were in the higher classes of the secondary school. They spoke sufficient English to have a good conversation with. The main subject was : I study economics, how can I be a good economist from guru’s point of view. I worked very simple with the principles of simran, honest work and sharing.
After rahiras I was given a lift to the right San Giovanni by Manjit Singh’s sister (who also speaks good English) where I was delighted to meet Manjit Singh.