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Interview

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Interview

 

 

QYou arrived in the Netherlands at an
impressionable age of 13 in the year 1975. Tell
us a little about those first years of struggle as
a ‘migrant’? Could you easily integrate in the
Dutch society?

I left Suriname on the 2nd of October1975, at the
age of thirteen and arrived in Holland during the
festivities of the liberation of Leiden on the third of
October. This made a big impression on me and I
decided to stay there and finish my secondary
education. I later studied literature for a couple of
years at the University of Leiden. Of course it was
quite difficult to be so far away from home, but at
the same time it was a very liberating and enlightening
experience. I was made to feel very welcome
in this country, and now consider the Netherlands
(and especially The Hague) as my home.

 

QThe ‘multiculturele samenleving’ has
greatly changed since then. What has changed
in your opinion, in terms of the growth of the
multicultural society in the NL ? What
challenges does the Hindustani community
face in the present times?

Since those years The Netherlands has
experienced many changes. We have had times of
prosperity and times of economic decline. The
world situation has changed drastically with the
political situation in the Middle East. Europe
united itself in the European Union with a single
currency and opened up their borders to each other.
Thus many more migrants came to Holland sometimes
to seek employment and sometimes to seek
refuge. In some of the larger cities like The Hague
the population of migrant descent is now the largest segment. Political discourse has hardened on the
subject of integration and although there is a growing
community of successful representatives of
migrant descent, tension amongst some of the
communities has grown. The Hindustani community
is one of the most successful migrant communities
and I feel that it has an obligation to help the
less fortunate within and outside of the Hindustani
community to find their way in Dutch society. I am
a firm believer in the multicultural society and the
strength of individuals to fend for themselves, but
I also believe that we all have to help each other.

 

QYou are active in the local politics since the
last 20 years and you have been instrumental
in the socio-cultural activities of the
Surinamese Hindustani community. How have
they contributed to the Dutch society and what
do you see as their achievements?

I have been active for more than 30 years with
this activities to stimulate the emancipation process
of the different migrant groups. That surely was not
an easy task because Holland had to adjust to their
presence. Through their successful integration the
Surinamese Hindustani community has contributed
to the Economic growth in Holland. Also they have,
like other groups, enriched the Dutch society with
their culture. Especially the Indian cuisine is a very
visible example. But also the open and tolerant way
the Surinamese Hindustani community addresses
religion I think is an inspiring example of the civic
society. And of course there are many individuals
who in their own way and in their own setting make
a solid contribution to our great Dutch community
as I try to do myself.

 

QIn January 2014 the Pravasi Bharatiya
Samman Award (PBSA) was conferred on you
by the Indian government. What is your
message to the Indian community here? How
in your opinion can the Indian and the
Hindustani community integrate, given the
fact that they share the same roots?

My message to the Indian community would be
to actively participate in Dutch society. It is not
necessary to change your identity. Be proud of your
origin and never forget who you are. But it is
required to participate in this society that you have
chosen as the place where you live and build
your future. Learn the language if you have not
done so yet. It is extremely important to be able to
work and have access to Dutch society.
I do not think that the Hindustani and Indian
society should completely integrate. They share the
same roots indeed, but there are also differences
originating from the different paths that they have
followed. To both communities I say: Fully enjoy
the common roots together and share the warmth
of being united through culture. Learn from each
other from the differences that have evolved in the
two communities during more than a century.
Share viewpoints on developments that have
consequences on our Dutch society and our role in
building the multicultural society.

 

QYou are also a noted poet and a writer.
What influences and inspires you to compose?

My love of the expression of the human emotion
and my quest to share wisdom and stimulate
spirituality inspire me to write and compose. I am
greatly influenced by the Indian spiritual masters. I
feel that their views can have a great contribution to
Western civilization.

 

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