Burgemeester 71st Republic Day of India and 10 years Bridging the Gap Foundation
Toespraak burgemeester Jan van Zanen
Van Bijnkershoeklaan 8, International School of Utrecht, 26 januari
Thank you dear Ritika (Mehra), Mehra-family, colleagues and friends, for your introduction and your kind words... thank you for inviting me. And thank you, dear host Kate Corder (Deputy head of school and admissions) for your hospitality.
It is a great honour and a great pleasure to celebrate Republic Day with you here at ISU (International School of Utrecht). The seventy-first... And there is more: today we also celebrate the anniversary of the Bridging the Gap Foundation. The tenth birthday already... so congratulations. To me, and I hope you all will agree with me, celebrating this very special day together is a confirmation of a long lasting relationship, a strong partnership and a warm friendship between India and the Netherlands. In ten years time, you have succeeded to build a bridge, a rock solid bridge I must say, between the Dutch and Indian communities.
Or... must we say: you successfully finished the job, our ancestors started four centuries ago? Because: Dutch merchants reached the Indian subcontinent by sailboat, they set foot on the sandy west coast of India and closed an important pepper trade deal with an Indian ruler. On that day, the Dutch and the Indians built the foundation of a bridge. A bridge that connects: two different countries... Two different cultures... Two different cuisines... [I hope you’ve tried a least one stroopwafel or our world famous poffertjes...] A bridge that symbolizes the Indian-Dutch friendship. A bridge that still exists...
I experienced our warm friendship many times. For instance, at the time I visited your beautiful country. I visited Mumbai, Hyderabad and Delhi during a working visit. I was mayor of Amstelveen - in the Amsterdam area - then. I attented for instance the national ceremony of Republic Day in India... In brief it was a visit I will never forget. So intensely I breathed, during this visit, the perfume of your great country, so many beautiful things I saw, so many fascinating people I met.
And also here, in the Netherlands I often experience and enjoy the Indian hospitality, cordiality and friendship. For instance, during the celebration of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and during the Netherlands India Business Meet in Utrecht. And last year, at the celebration of the seventieth Republic Day in Amsterdam. Or last week, at the Indian Pavilion at the Holiday Fair in de Jaarbeurs in Utrecht. These are the moments, we celebrate a our relationship, partnership and friendship.
But as we know, friendships are like bicycles. They need regular maintenance. Otherwise, the wheels will squeak. Or even something worse... We will not let this happen. As the mayor of a city with strong ties to the Indian community, I am happy that there are organizations that keep the friendship between the Indian community and the Dutch community alive. Such as: Bridging the Gap Foundation. By ensuring that Indian people can find their way in the Netherlands. By holding workshops. By organizing nice events, such as today. By enabling encounters between Indians and Dutch, such as today. You help the Indian and Dutch people in the Netherlands to stay connected, for now - and hopefully for many centuries to come.
I congratulate you, with all my heart, on Republic Day. And once again, I congratulate Bridging the Gap Foundation on it’s tenth birthday.