More than 30 years ago I paid 30 guilders in an Amsterdam antiquarian bookshop for the little book: De Nederlanders in Voor-India, by H. Terpstra, published in the Patria series by P.N. van Kampen & Zoon N.V, Amsterdam in 1947, the year of my birth. This is a concise write up in Dutch about the importance of the Dutch role in India that started in the early 17thcentury and lasted until 1825. It also was for me the first book that described what the energy of Dutch ancestors established in India. How they traded, what connections they had with Indian monarchs, what attitudes and behaviours they had on local cultural and religious actions.
In his final chapter entitled Our Legacy Terpstra wrote: “Who deeply researches and documents traces of the labour of our 17th century forefathers will reap a surprising harvest”. He wrote about the Dutch cemetery and Surat with the impressive grave monument of Adriaan van Reede tot Drakensteijn and other Dutch cemeteries, churches, loges and factories on all coast of India. His attractive writing started my research in archives and antiquarian bookshops in 1988.
In February 1989 this book and others and quite a few days of study in the National Archives in The Hague helped me to plan my first trip to our shared heritage with India. Soon after that I came across In het voetspoor der vaderen, by Maurits Wagenvoort, a book from 1929 that showed me the first pictures from the Dutch heritage that was still existing in 1929.
All these proofs of our until then for me unknown heritage made me take three weeks holiday from my work to document what was left in India. I started in Calcutta where my friend Christiaan was working and his paper clipping of 1988 pointed me to Chinsurah. With his help with local contacts I did visit the cemeteries and fort in Sadraspatnam and Pulicat near Chennai. I crossed over to Cochin in Kerala for the Dutch church and cemetery on Fort Cochin. And I went from there by train to Surat and Bharuch in Gujarat. I made slides in all these places that I have digitalised in the late 1990s to publish a few on my first website.