By Balwant Sanghera
VANCOUVER: Recently, I had an opportunity to attend my nephew’s wedding in France. My cousin and his family have lived in a suburb of Paris for more than thirty years.
It was my second visit to Paris which is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is not only one of the leading tourist destinations but also a business and cultural centre. This capital city of France is a global hub of fashion and an international capital of style. It is one of the world’s topmost tourist attractions. There is so much to see and do. Paris is home to some of the world famous tourist attractions. These include the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe and Champs –Elysees etc… Each of these attractions is unique. Paris is also known as the City of Light. The view of Paris and its surroundings from atop the Eiffel Tower is mind blowing. The Napoleonic era architecture is also very impressive.
Like the rest of Europe, France is also becoming multicultural at a fast pace. On the streets, market places and the parks, cultural diversity is very evident. Though issues like the religious head coverings are still lingering on, yet the changing demographics are visible everywhere. As a matter of fact, not only France, but all of Europe seems to be undergoing a major shift in demographics. The disappearing national boundaries in Europe have made movement of people from one country to the other very easy. As a matter fact, the whole world, including Europe, is becoming more like a global village now.
More than a hundred years ago, Punjabi pioneers ventured out to countries like Canada, the USA, Panama, Singapore/Malaysia and Australia, etc. However, since the 1970s a lot of them have been choosing Europe. Consequently, there are now mini Punjabs almost in every European country. At my nephew’s wedding in Paris there were friends and relatives from almost every European country ranging from Greece to Germany to Italy to Spain to Holland to England. Nearly all of them have gone through very difficult times. However, they never gave up. Due to their hard work, perseverance and resilience, most of them are fairly well settled in the countries of their choice.
Wherever Punjabis, especially Sikhs, have gone, one of their top priorities has been to come to-gather and build a gurdwara. Like their fellow Sikhs around the globe, the Sikh community in Europe has also built very spacious gurdwaras in their neighborhoods. I understand in and around Paris alone there are a number of very impressive gurdwaras. This is a credit to the pioneering spirit of Punjabis.
They have not only retained but also promoted the Punjabi language and their culture wherever they have settled. It was very encouraging to see the young people, most of them second generation, speak very good Punjabi in addition to the language of the European countries in which they were born and grew up. Some of them are also fairly fluent in English as well.
Thus, most of our European youth is fluent in at least three and in some cases four languages. Furthermore, they are proud of their Punjabi heritage. Young people like them are the future leaders and ambassadors of Punjabi language and culture at the international level. This is something that all of us, no matter where we live, can be rightly proud of.
(Honoured with the Order of British Columbia, Balwant Sanghera is a known community activist based in Richmond, BC)