Avtar Sandhu

Avtar Sandhu watched the shapes of strangers slip onto the deck of a cargo ship, a far smaller one than he had expected. It was a warm June evening in 1987 in The Hague and the dock was growing dark. Like a curtain, the twilight kept the ship overfilling with Indian travelers obscured, out of clear view of the Dutch authorities.

If Avtar stepped onboard, there would be 174 passengers. Many of them, like him, were Sikh men who had fled the Punjab region of India. Avtar didn’t know the other passengers, only the agent who would cross the Atlantic too. He covered his spot with a loan from a friend in New York at a cost of $3,000 US. His passage paid and his few belongings in hand, all Avtar had left to do was board the Amelie.