Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Dutch Sikh

Afghanistan has been a permanent fixture in the news for over 30 years now, and always for the wrong reasons. While the Western media's coverage lately has been about the loss of Western resources - life and money, we are slowly desensitized to the plight of the general population in this Central Asian nation. Little thought is given to the conditions of women and the minorities, of which there are many. Afghanistan straddles the famous Silk Route and the centuries have seen influxes and influences from all over the world. The assumption that Afghanistan is a homogeneous society of tribal communities with superficial differences is a common fallacy. The mish-mash that is Afghanistan comprises of culturally distinct influences from the Greeks, the Mongols, the Russians, the former states of the Soviet Bloc, the Indians, the Buddhists, the Persians, the Arabs, and the Chinese.

One such community is the Sikhs in Afghanistan. This is the community I am from. Afghanistan is where my roots lie. Where, if history had been different, I would still be. Like many Afghans in far flung corners of the world, I miss it, I lament it's state and I know that a return to the carefree days of my childhood will probably never happen. My children have never known the land of their forefathers - apart from what they've seen in the media or in The Kite Runner or The Bear Trap. Maybe they never will. As for me, I'm not sure. I once wrote a poem about this, which you can see here.

A week ago, I received an email from a man who calls himself The Dutch Sikh. Based in London, Pritpal Singh is a former Afghan refugee, now a Dutch citizen and a journalist by profession. Pritpal recently visited Afghanistan, bringing back a treasure trove of images that I have been poring over for days, trying to recognise the locations, looking at the faces of the people in them and the country raped by three decades of barbarism. 

Pritpal is currently working on two documentaries of his trip to Afghanistan, one titled Mission Afghanistan based on his experiences of visiting the land he'd left years ago and the exploration of his roots. The second documentary would be a travelogue the historical Hindu and Sikh shrines in Afghanistan, something that has never been done before. While we wait with bated breath for their release, Pritpal has put together a teaser trailer for Mission Afghanistan on You Tube. See below.

The photoset of his travels can be seen here.

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