Not much personal information from Dutch life in Bengal or any other of Dutch settlements in India can be found in the VOC archives in the State Archives. The reason for that is that the VOC correspondence only covered official and business information written by VOC employees and shared with the local head office and the central office in The Netherlands, The VOC also censored all letters. An exception can be made for Jan Albert Sichterman (1692-1764), who spent nearly 15 years in Bengal. In 1742 he used his own money to build a church tower near the river in Chinsurah.
That we know a bit more about his and his family’s life is due to a personal history dug up by a descendent in the Sichterman family. Wiet Kühne-van Diggelen.
Wiet wrote the book in Dutch. For my research for the Indian specialists working on the revamp of the Dutch heritage in Chinsurah I summarized her book about Jan Sichterman. See Nearly fifteen years VOC service in Bengal: Jan Albert Sichterman.
My annotated collection on VOC in India started in 1988 and comprises nearly 450 titles. I have grouped them on the various regions and on two interesting VOC employees. The last category gives interesting views from esteemed Indian historians about the Dutch presence. They include comparisons between the Portuguese, Dutch and British actions in India.
Cochin, the old town, Fort Cochin, Bolgatty Palace and Vypeen provide the best preserved Dutch heritage in India. Here old Dutch remains are being integrated in Cochin by making them part of life in this Kerala harbour town. Municipalities, INTACH and private Indians have teamed up to turn then into commercial viable operations for tourism and cultural development.
Three old Dutch houses formed the basis of David Hall that is now a cafe art house. Bolgatty Palace turned into a hotel, so did a few other old colonial buildings in old Cochin. A new promenade has many visitors strolling past the revamped Dutch bastion. From one of the hotels one can do a Duct heritage walk that has been developed by Bauke van der Pol.
There are other Dutch remains that are worth exploring, including on Vypeen.
On 21 April 2017 31 students and 4 teachers of the Mrinalini Datta Mahavidyapith college in Birati Kolkata visited Chinsura for one day educational visit. This has been made possible by my idea and motivation, and the cooperation rendered by the India Netherlands Friendship Society. Mr. Ganesh Nandy has constantly remained in touch to welcome the students of our college.
The students saw five Dutch related historical places such as the Dutch cemetery, Dutch artillery building, pillar, Mandal’s House. Students have also administered questionnaires with some local people.
They have prepared a project report about how Chinsura’s people thought about the contribution of Dutch and its restoration.