A Sikh in Greece from A Sikh in Greece | SikhNet 1) Introduction This we believe, is an inspiring story. Every time we read it, we get new emotions. I have read it once, twice, thrice, perhaps, even more times. This true story motivates the reader to be a true Sikh. It seems as fresh today as it was thirty years ago. Dr. Brij Pal Singh is one of the five Asians who was awarded a doctoral study scholarship by Government of Greece in 1976-77. He was in Athens from 1977 to 1980. Dr. Brij Pal Singh worked as Professor of Economics from 1984 to 1996 at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie that trains top administrators of Government of India. BookPalz is an innovative, non-profit venture to spread the universal message of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. We are publishing this story with the hope that it will inculcate the much-needed devotion and zeal amongst Sikh youth to live the Sikh way, which is the best that one can get in this life. Thanks to our Guru, we are Sikhs. Let His blessings and benedictions be showered upon all. I pray that no one is left with an imperfect Sikh presentation.I, also, sincerely appreciate the efforts of S. Jaswinder Singh Khalsa, Manchester, U.K. and Sukrit Trust for taking this message to Sikh youth across the globe. Captain Yashpal Singh Merchant Navy Honorary Director, BookPalz 2) He has never met a Sikh “Are you from Sudan?” asks the conductor of the tram (or trolly as the Greeks call it ) as I sit down in a seat next to him. I say 'no'. He suggests 'Somalia'. I repeat 'no'. Both of us are amused and to enjoy the fun, I refuse to tell him my country until he names half a dozen lesser known countries from Arabia and Africa. He smiles in defeat. As I utter the word 'India', he gives out a big breath, 'Ah'. He had least expected such a wellknowncountry. Then he turns his head immediately to his job of issuing tickets. At the next respite, he beckons me with his friendly gesture and asks, 'You are Buddhist? My 'no' makes him curious and he suggests such names as Brahmanism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Judaism until his glossary of world religions is exhausted. He gasps his defeat and his eyes open wide with astonishment when I tell him, "I am a Sikh". No, he has never heard the word. He has never read about it. He has never met a Sikh. And then I am compelled to explain what Sikhism is and what it stands for, to a small group who has gathered around us by now. All what I said was Greek to them, in Greece! 3) My exterior Sikh form turned out to be my greatest asset Such incidents occur frequently as I walk in the busy avenues, visit offices, libraries or even the crowded departmental stores in the course of my ordinary business of life. I have been in Athens for the last eleven months or so, on a Greek government scholarship for doctoral research. My topic of research is 'Tourism and Greek Balance of Payments'. I have to visit libraries and offices to collect data and information. My professors, two specimens of the finest among Greeks, had told me, rather warned me, that to collect statistics in this field would be the most difficult task in Greece, not only because of the language problem but also because research traditions of ancient Greece are not somehow grounded in the grassroots of modern public and private offices. It was indeed a pleasant surprise that my exterior Sikh form turned out to be my greatest asset. The moment I enter any office, the receptionists noticing my turban and beard seem interested in me. It is easy to get to the person concerned. Here again I am asked first of all, to explain my religion, my religious beliefs, the state of politics and economy in India and so on. The discussion makes the person friendly and my formal work proceeds more smoothly. Thirst for knowledge is an age-old tradition with the Greek people. The distance of India from Greece running into thousands of miles and its ancient culture and civilization lend more charm. My religion and its form prompts them to know more. 4) Thanks to our Gurus, a Sikh is spotted at once Even otherwise, Greece is a fairly good exception to the whole of Europe. Here a foreigner feels at home. Racial feelings are non-existent. Africans mix up freely with the local population. Greeks take the initiative in talking to foreigners. And when a Sikh presents himself as a Sikh, they show unusual interest. A Sikh is a foreigner beyond doubt; indeed he is a hundred percent foreigner. Fortunately or unfortunately, it seems, I am the only Sikh living in Athens; may be in Greece. Athens is the birth-place of democracy and European civilization. But modern Athens is a highly urbanized city like any other European capital. In some respects it is unique. Almost 25-30 percent of the total population of Greece lives in Greater Athens alone. Millions of tourists visit this country every year and almost all of them come to Athens. Any foreigner is absorbed in this vast ocean of humanity, but not a Sikh. Thanks to our Gurus, he is spotted at once. And he is rather more welcome. Greek economy is heavily dependent on tourist receipts and the Greeks realize it quite well. The government has a well-executed tourist policy. Greeks are very hospitable and extrovert people. A Sikh should have an easy time maintaining his religion. Why am I the only Sikh seen here, I ponder? More reflections at the blogspot site.