483.The Man in Blue – San Bonifacio (Verona), Pegognaga (Mantova), Novellara (Reggio Emilia)

On Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 July I stayed in Montecchia till about 2 pm, then went to the Gurdwara and mixed with the ‘campers’ till after Rahiras. Monday evening after coming back from Gurdwara Sahib I went out into the square in front of the apartment where Harpal Singh was sitting with some friends.

I met a relative of his wife, who also lives local and who took me for a drive in the hills around Montecchia. We came to a village, turned into a yard and saw about 7 or 8 Panjabi men talking to each other, just as if we were in some village ‘back-home’. It was not only the rural setting, but also the fact that everybody seemed to be related to the family I stayed with that gave me that real Panjabi feeling.

On Wednesday I packed my bags and left at the usual time for the San Bonifacio Gurdwara. In the evening at about 8 pm Gursharan Singh from Pegognaga and his friend Daljit Singh arrived. We had langar and left in their car, first taking the east–west autostrada to Verona and then the north-south one. We arrived at Gursharan Singh’s house at about 10 pm, met with his family, including a cousin who lives in Germany and went to sleep at 11 pm.

This time there was no big bedroom just for me, but a smaller room for three of us. The climate is also different; I am further south and in the fertile flatlands where on Thursday the temperature goes up to 40 Celsius. In that temperature I only went for a local walk, but I did take some pictures. In the late afternoon Gursharan Singh’s father, the cousin and I went to Novellara to visit the oldest Gurdwara of Italy, an impressive affair, where we were welcomed nicely.

When we came back home some visitors came with whom I had a good conversation. I do not think that the Gurdwaras here offer any pastoral care, and therefore people are keen to share their concerns with a visiting ‘gianni’ like me. I do have some insights to share, and I do not just talk, I can also listen.

Especially here where most people speak good Italian and of course Panjabi but less English, it is important to notice ‘body language’. The Sikhs live in a foreign land, and they are supposed to be a success, but one of the men I met works very hard but had not received any pay for the last four months. I cannot change his situation, but at least I can listen and point to the source of strength.

In San Bonifacio I also had ‘pastoral’ conversations, but there most people I listened and talked to had better English. What I enjoyed most there was seeing girls and women trying to find a Sikh path in the surrounding patriarchal Panjabi culture. This also seemed to be supported by those in charge of the Gurdwara.

Gursharan Singh is on a job related visit to Switzerland for two days and will come back tonight. Tomorrow we are due to go to the north east and on Sunday we will again visit the ‘local’ Novellara Gurdwara, which is about 25 km away from here. The family I am staying with treat me nicely, in a way that I am comfortable with.