“PWD vandals destroy historic church”. This newspaper cutting airmailed from Calcutta by my friend Chris in 1988 triggered my interest and action for the Dutch cultural heritage in India.
It was the first time I heard about the fact that we have a history of nearly 200 years on the various coasts in India. I spent many free days in the National Archives in The Hague digging into the VOC archives and starting with Chinsurah. Antiquarian books followed.
When I found the black and white pictures from the Maurits Wagenvoort book “In het voetspoor der vaderen”, published in 1929 I decided in 1989 to do a similar tour to India documenting what was left of the churches, forts, and cemeteries. I visited Chinsurah in West Bengal, Sadraspatnam and Pulicat in Tamil Nadu, Cochin in Kerala, Agra, Surat and Bharoach in Gujarat.
At that time I met only few Indians that took an inyterest in this shared heritage. Mr. Ganesh Nandy received me in Chinsurah where he was chairing the India-Netherlands Friendship Society, with support of the Dutch Embassy in New Delhi. I revisited Chinsurah in the 1990s, 2002, 2004. After my retirement I revisited our heritage in 2013 and 2015. And I am happy to say that this time I met young and enthusiastic Indian architects and historians who have taken action to maintain this shared heritage.
Through my website I helped a few Dutch people with ancestors in India who wanted to visit India to do more research there.