Ambassador of Belgium to India, Jan Luykx, shares his love for the country and its cuisine, and relives his memories of getting married here. Shrabasti Mallik takes notes
Ambassador of Belgium to India Jan Luykx’s first visit to India was in 1977 with fellow student friends from Belgium. He returned to the country in 1981 to pursue his MPhil from the University of Delhi and went back to Belgium only to return to the country in 1988 as a diplomat, a position he held till 1991. So, when he was appointed as the Ambassador of Belgium to India in 2014, he could not have been happier.
Your memories of India…
My first memory of India is from 1977, when I came here with friends to travel. We were students then, and the country fascinated me with its colours, diversity, food and traditions. When I came back in 1981 to pursue my MPhil degree in Indian Philosophy from the University of Delhi, I met my wife, Raka Singh, here. We married in 1983 and left. When I returned as the Ambassador of Belgium to India in August 2014, I felt as though I had come back home.
What are the changes you have seen in New Delhi since then?
Delhi has become bigger – the number of roads has increased, several flyovers have come up and there has been an exceptional rise in the number of shopping centres in the city. There is always traffic on the roads but the Metro corridors have made travelling comfortable. Delhi has become very lively.
Tell us about the places you have visited in India…
My in-laws live in Lucknow, so that is one place we visit most often. That apart, I have been all over the country and visited almost all states. Kashmir, however, is still on my list. I am also yet to explore the Northeast.
Your most memorable moment in India… Getting married in Gwalior in 1982 has been so memorable! My father-in-law was a commanding officer in the army, and was posted there at the time.
You seem to love Indian food…
I love Indian food – spice and all. The cuisine has a lot of diversity and I discover something new about it every other day. I feel that good food connects people from all over the world, which is why we hosted the curtain raiser to the Dine With Royalty festival, in which 20 Indian royal families will present their unique cuisines in October 2017.
What would you tell an Indian travelling to Belgium to see and do?
There are many things to see in Belgium, but one should definitely visit the old historical towns like Bruges, the beautiful port city of Antwerp and Brussels. The country is home to some fantastic museums too, such as the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Musical Instrument Museum, BELvue Museum that focuses on the history of Belgium and the monarchy, and the Horta Museum, dedicated to the life and work of the Belgian Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta. One should not forget to taste some delectable local cuisine at the restaurants there either. We also have some great bars that offer more than 1,000 varieties of beer. Belgium is not a very big country, so you can easily see a lot in a short time.
And a Belgian travelling to India?
The scale of India is different, which makes it difficult to suggest places to see and things to do! But one has to see the Taj Mahal. If a Belgian comes to Delhi, I would suggest Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar. Also, Hampi in Karnataka is a must-see, as are the national parks in Madhya Pradesh.