|P - 1
|At the crowded airport of Rio de Janeiro,
Gurtaj was making his way towards the exit, excited by the prospective
of spending a few days in the most happening capital in the
Southern world. It was hard not to notice him. A young guy wearing
a turban and a thick beard was not a common sight in Brazil.
He was accepting the glances with a smile, but got worried when
a man ran to him with a mobile phone in his outstretched hand,
requesting him to speak to his friend. His friend was a Sikh
living in Brazil and he hadn't spoken to a fellow Sikh for years.
In another story, a Sikh student in the US in the late fifties
was stunned by the outburst of joy he provoked in an unknown
man who stopped him in the street and invited him home for dinner.
Several years back in Iraq, another Sikh had loaned to this
man some money, without even asking him his address. The distinctive
turban and beard sets apart a Sikh as a symbol of Indian identity.
At any airport where the Indians have to change flights, watch
how an old Gujarati lady with little knowledge of English heads
towards a Sikh for help and guidance as they are sure that he,
being an Indian, would be helpful.
Other stories about these somehow mysterious beturbaned people
take us many years back. A man, probably the first Sikh immigrant
in Japan, arrived there from Basra via Moscow and Vladivostok
by train with no knowledge of Russian or Japanese languages,
with meager resources and not knowing what will happen next.
In a more contemporary story, an Indian American took his
students to Norway only to discover that the North most light
house was being run by a Punjabi, probably a Sikh. Then there
is the saga of the Sikhs in Argentina. In the provinces of
Salta, Tucuman, San Luis and Santa Fe, there are approximately
1000 people of Indian origin. According to documents, the
earliest Indian migrants are reported to have come to Argentina
around 1908 and did not go back. Their children and grandchildren
are now almost totally integrated in the local community.
Several of them speak only Spanish, but others have retained
their Indian links, speak Punjabi and visit India. In a town
called Rosario de la Frontera, they have built a small Gurdwara-cum-community