I really enjoyed my recent trip to Italy. I liked the slow but expensive way I chose to travel from Sint-Truiden to Verona. I loved the warm weather, the sangat I met and the amazing number of people amongst the sangat with whom I could actually talk, mostly using English.
I visited the Gurdwaras of San Bonifacio (Verona) and Novellara (Reggio Emillia) and the two Gurdwaras of Pordenone (Venezia). In San Bonifacio the Gurdwara is in an industrial area, near the autostrada and the railway station. In Novellara the Gurdwara is on an industrial estate a good distance away from the town. The two Pordenone Gurdwaras are also not in or near a town or village centre.
In the areas that I visited the sangat does not live concentrated in urban areas as in Surrey (Vancouver), Brampton (Toronto) or Southall (London). They live spread out in villages, towns and cities and there are only regional Gurdwaras. This means that even the big San Bonifacio and Novellara Gurdwaras do not have a daily substantial attendance like in Park Avenue (Southall) or Soho Road (Birmingham).
Why there is a higher percentage of first generation educated Sikhs in the Verona area I do not know. The sangat there seems to be less Jat dominated and less influenced by Taksal, AKJ and Babas. What I said on stage in that Gurdwara would be welcome in the Hounslow Singh Sabha and in the Guru Nanak Prakash Singh Sabha in Bristol, but in very few other UK or Belgian Gurdwaras.
Both Pordenone and San Bonifacio are north of the river Po and near the foothills of the Alps. The economy in these areas seems to be in a better state than in Pegognaga (Mantova) and Novellera, which are both more to the south and across the river Po. I heard more stories there about people being unemployed, wages not being paid on time and about hard physical work for small wages.
I noticed that also in Pegognaga, where I only stayed from Wednesday night to Sunday, and with most of the Saturday spend travelling, people came to me to talk about personal problems. This happened even more in San Bonifacio, where I spent every afternoon/early evening in the Gurdwara from 19 to 28 July and again from 1 August to my departure on the 5th of August.
We badly need pastoral care linked to our Gurdwaras. The pastors need not be Granthis, but a good knowledge of gurmat and of the society the Sikhs are part of is a must.
And then there is the eternal problem of the lack of practice of the One Humanity principle which is at the very root of Guru’s teachings. I am not saying that this problem is worse in Italy than in the UK, Belgium or the Netherlands, but the problem is there. My next column is going to be titled ‘practical Sikhí’, and the one after that will be about ‘Guru’s daughters’.
Stop talking about ‘One Humanity’
Start doing ‘One Humanity’