443.The Man in Blue ~ Den Haag – Amsterdam 22 September

In last week’s column I arrived in Den Haag (The Hague). Here I always stay at the house of my friend Jatinder Singh, who tells me that his house is my house. He lives in an area where all streets are named after South African locations or politicians from the times of the Boer Wars. These wars were between white settlers of Dutch background (Boers) and the English.

This neighbourhood is one of the most diverse areas of Den Haag. It has a Ravidas Temple and a Gurdwara and there are of course Churches, Mosques and Mandirs. Most of the Hindus are from Surinam (former Dutch Guyana). Some of the Panjabis in the Netherlands married Surinam Hindu girls with Dutch passports.

I visited both the Gurdwara and the Ravidas Temple. I only took a few ‘snaps’ of the Singh Sabha Gurdwara, and quite a few of the Ravidas Temple and of some of the positive things that were going on there.

On the 22nd of September I went to Amsterdam where I visited the Guru Nanak Gurdwara near Sloterdijk station and the newly opened Maan Sarover Gurdwara on the Baarsjesweg in Oud West. In between I visited Marieke, my ex-colleague from my days at the Eurolines Company.

Last year I had a meal with her and her little daughter, this time we only spent half an hour together. I also met ex colleagues Paul and Dick. It was nice to meet people who knew me before I became a Sikh and with whom I am still friends.

I had langar at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara. It is not on a central location but has good public transport connections and plenty of parking. It is not very busy during the week but there is always some sangat.

The Maan Sarovar Gurdwara is in a lively area just west of the city centre. I walked through the Kinkerstraat on my way to the Gurdwara and it was a pleasure to see this busy shopping street with many ethnic minority shops.

Both on this walk and earlier when I walked along the river Amstel there was no sense that the people of Amsterdam were infected by the fear of ‘the other’ as preached by Dutch MP Geert Wilders. His party scored too many votes during this year’s election and now gives outside support to the new right wing government.

In the Maan Sarovar Gurdwara I was recognised by one of the sevadars. I listened to the Rehrás and made myself useful during sukhasan. My friend Gursev Singh and his wife arrived and we had langar. Then I hurried away to catch my train back to Den Haag from the Lelylaan station. I missed my train and had to wait for a later slower train, and had to wait again at Schiphol as my next train was delayed.

Waiting with me was a Scandinavian Singh with whom I had a nice conversation, which goes to show that this missing of trains and delays was for a good purpose.