As a person who is about to move to a new country, it is natural for you to look for familiar things; especially ones that tend to cure your homesickness. Born Indian, I never stopped looking for Indian snacks, people, or culturally influenced places, where I can get in touch with my roots, wherever I go.
After my recent move to The Netherlands, I seemed to have made no effort what so ever when it came to quenching my thirst for those ‘desi’ things that most NRI’s crave. The reason being that the Netherlands is already so enriched with cultural aspects of various countries such as India, Turkey, Indonesia etc. From its own Dutch language, to local entertainment centres, markets and even people, The Netherlands seems to perfectly highlight the Indian flavour in different forms.
The Netherlands has the second largest population of people of Indian origin in Europe. It is home to about 2,20,000 Indian and Surinami Hindustani Diaspora embedded into the Dutch Society. Surely a good amount of culturally related people in a foreign country will lead to diverse social gatherings and celebrations of their home country. In the short time that I spent in The Netherlands, I came across few priceless cultural and ethical representations of my culture, which made me appreciate my roots even more.
1. Gandhi Centre, Den Haag
What better way to start respecting your nation in peace and harmony than going to a place named after our Father of the Nation – Mahatma Gandhi. “Gandhi Centre”, an Indian Cultural Centre was established in The Hague on the occasion of his birth anniversary on 2nd October 2011. An old church was converted to Gandhi center; the center is run by the Indian Embassy. I was quite pleased and proud to know that the Indian community as well as the host country is deeply devoted to the legacy of Gandhiji. Not only are there statues of Gandhiji at several locations in The Netherlands, but also Gandhi Jayanthi is one of the major events there. The centre holds various cultural programmes including – Ghazal nights, Yoga classes, Gujarati dance etc.
2. History and Culture of the Suranami’s
Suriname is a country on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. In 1667 it was captured by the Dutch, who governed Suriname as Dutch Guiana until 1954. Thus, Dutch is the sole offical language but interestingly the third-most used language within the Suranamese people is Suranamese Hindi or Sarnami, a dialect of Bhojpuri. Sarnami is spoken by the descendants of South Asian contract workers from then British India. Deputy Mayor of The Hague is a person of Suriname origin One of the highlights of their presence in Netherlands is the exsistence of Suranamese radio channels, where Hindi Bollywood songs as well as Suranami songs are played, and the RJ converses in a Sarnami-Dutch with the listeners.
3. The Hague Market, Europe’s largest open market a.k.a Sister of SN Market
With over 500 stalls, The Hague’s open market is handy, fresh and well known for its International crowd. Open four days a week, it offers almost anything that one requires at a flea market. Fresh fruits, vegetables, clothes, ornaments, handy goods, Indian spices, you name it. As a Sarojini Market (situated in New Delhi) lover, I found this place so familiar and fun. I would definitely name it the twin sister of SN Market if it were not because of the lack of yummy ‘Pani Puri’ and ‘Chuski’ stands.
4. Keukenhof – Bollywood’s romantic spot
Remember those beautiful tulip gardens featured in many Bollywood movies? The one where our romantic leads would sing, dance and romance in gorgeous outfits? Well, one of those heavenly gardens are located in the Netherlands. Keukenhof, also known as The Garden of Europe, is one of the most beautiful tulip gardens in the world and it is where the evergreen song ‘Dekha ek khwab’ featuring Amitabh Bachchan & Rekha from the Yash Chopra film ‘Silsila’ was shot. Another popular song of its era, “Teri chunariya” from Hello Brother featuring Salman Khan and Rani Mukherjee was shot in the same location.
5. Amsterdam – Sex, Drugs and Bollywood
Amsterdam, the capital city known for legal drugs and the infamous Red Light District, has also been showcased in a recent Bollywood movie Queen starring Kangana Ranaut. The song “Hungama Ho Gaya” was shot in a local club in Amsterdam called NL. This song is known to be the first Hindi song played in the club and the club even hosted its first ever Bollywood party after all the craze this song caused. Kangana is also seen visiting the Red Light District in her other song ‘Gujariya’ which was shot in various locations in Amsterdam.
Khyati Rajvanshi is a Communication, Media and Culture with Film Studies student (BA Honours) at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom. She is in India for her internship at Indian Express