Exchange students

Exchange students

(A Maratha Empire Tale)

by Mr. A_B

 

Namrata writes to her mother from Osaka Japan

Dear ma,

How is everything back in Punyanagari ? I hope everyone is alright. How is Hitomi doing? I hope she is adjusting well to our Indian way of life, I certainly am doing well here. The Nakamura family is taking very good care of me here. Its a small family, there is the father, Shiro, the mother, Rita and one son, Kenji. They are all very good to me and take care of me as one of their own. At first it was a little difficult for me to adjust to life with the Nakamura family, they are among the more conservative families in Osaka and have some traditions which I had to adjust to. In many ways it is similar to us, here in Osaka like our Punyanagri, the women also veil in public. Zentai is very popular here and bondage is part of the way of life here. Oh do tell this to Riya, she would love to hear about this, I am sure she would be very excited. How is my elder sister? Hope everything’s going well with Nishanth. I bought a small surprise for her from Osaka, Kenji helped me with it.

The hardest part of life here for me has been adjusting to the food, unlike Indian food, the food here tastes quite bland and some items are served without being fully cooked, like raw fish. The Nakamura family has been very understanding of my difficulties, I am very grateful for Mrs Nakamura to make an effort to serve me Indian dal and rice, but it simply did not have the taste. I am now slowly getting used to the food here, I think I have started to take a liking to Sushi. Discipline is a very integral part of Japanese lifestyle and for women that means observing bondage discipline. It is part and parcel of my daily routine here.

My average day starts at 7 am in the morning when Kenji and I get ready for school. The Nakamura family has adopted zentai as means of modesty, I get into the dress every morning before leaving for school. The uniform includes a traditional red kimono with blue borders and waist band ,and a scarf to veil over the face covering the lower half of the face, but I don’t wear it as I always wear zentai anyways. The style they use to veil with the scarf is very similar to Punyanagri. The school the Nakamura family sends their daughter to is the same I attend, it is one of the reputed traditionalist schools in Osaka. There are about half a dozen of them in and around Osaka. Mrs Nakamura said she dressed her daughter with both the zentai and veil, in addition to the kimono uniform, she would also gag her when outdoors, though she takes it off at school, we have to interact with teachers from time to time.

At the school we are taught various skills in addition to a modern curriculum. I have missed none of the subjects that I was already studying at school in Punyanagri, in fact they also teach advanced subjects like nano technology and advanced biotechnology, right from this level. I also learn Japanese as extra class along with some foreign students, I made friends with another Indian girl in the class, she too comes to school in a zentai and keeps the hood on, her name is Akriti. Oh before I forget to mention, there is also a large Indian community here who are descendants of Indian Jawans who fought during the war, Akriti’s family was from this background.

The school goes on till 4 in the afternoon and we are served lunch and breakfast at school. At the start of the school day and at the end, we are instructed to clean up the school, this teaches us to be clean and responsible. In the afternoon, there is also a discipline class, where we are taught about Japanese etiquette and discipline. Students who do not keep discipline are punished by sitting tied up and gagged throughout the class and made to observe the class. However, part of the curriculum is also about bondage discipline, which has become an accepted part of culture in South Japan. We are taught both how to tie and how to conduct ourselves while bound and when it is acceptable and when it isn’t. I must admit that I enjoyed tying up my fellow girl students. 

The classes are small, there is one teacher for twenty of us in one class and the teachers take great care in teaching us their lessons. They are usually very friendly, but there is great emphasis on how  to conduct oneself. That is true for everywhere in Japan. Most people here use public transport and don’t own their own cars or bikes, unlike Punyanagari where the motor bike and scooty dominates. The air is also less polluted here and streets are cleaner. Japan is not richer than our Maratha nation, but it is much cleaner and more disciplined.

After school, we return home and spend the evenings with family. Mr Nakamura is also a shibari artist, and he practiced with his daughter and wife before the exchange. Evenings at 6 to 7 is usually shibari practice time, and he is passing on his skills in binding to his son Kenji. Initially they were hesitant in involving me into this practice, but I was eager to see it, since in our family too we have to be bound after marriage to observe modesty, I thought it would be nice practice for me. Shibari is a very difficult but interesting and beautiful art form. I am also learning by observation, I hope to share it with you and Riya as well when I get back.

Saturdays are considered holidays for schools here and that is when we spend time with the family and studying at home. The Nakamura family is very keen about teaching me about Japanese culture, but even more so, they are keen on learning about the culture of Marathas. In Osaka I am told, there is a rising trend of Indian fashion, many women are beginning to adopt Indian clothings like salwars and saris. The Punyanagari dupatta veil is also becoming more and more popular here. It made me feel a little gush of pride when I saw this, to see my country’s influence going far and wide. Indians are highly respected in Osaka and venerated as the land of Buddha. The Nakamura family are also Buddhist and one of the reason they accepted the exchange program was to send their daughter to “the land of Buddha”. Mr. Nakamura has expressed his life wish to visit Bodh Gaya and offer prayers at the Mahabodhi temple. It would be great if they come and visit and we can visit with them, wouldn’t it?

The program will last for 6 more months and I hope to learn much more about Japan and come back more enlightened than I was. Right now the thing I love the most is the zentai and kimono, I intend to keep wearing it regularly when I return.

With love,

Namrata Shinde

Hitomi writes to her mother from India

Dear Mama-san,

Konnichiwa mamasan, I write to you in english from India. It is not easy, but I am learning, the Shinde family is helping me a lot. It is quite different from Japan, but also similar. Women here veil, they also tie and gag, just like you do, mamasan. The Indian family is larger than us, there is father, Mr Narayan Shinde, there is mother Mrs Parvathy Shinde, there is two sisters, and grandmother. Their house is old, it is one of the old traditional mansions of Punyanagari called ‘Wada’, it is little like a Japanese Machia. There is a large central courtyard and rooms around that with one large elegant gate.

I am living in Namrata’s room. It is nice and spacious, larger than my room in Osaka. How is Namrata doing in Osaka? I hope she is also doing alright. Her parents are concerned about her well being, her mother is very interested to hear life in Japan, our traditions, our culture,  and very interested in how we veil ourselves. Here zentai is not as popular, but bondage is more common, but mainly in gags. It has to do more with modesty and traditions. In Japan only some family do it, but here many families do it. Their veiling with scarves is similar to our method as well.

Japanese products are becoming more popular in India now, and some customs like kinbaku and shibari is becoming popular too. Indians love very much to bind themselves, even if it is not just custom. Mrs Shinde likes to experiment with veils, she wears two layers of scarves for veiling and wears a sari. Unlike you mamasan, she goes to office for work in the morning, more like Papasan. That is something I find new in India, women seem to have more freedom here than in Osaka.

I go to a jesuit run school which teaches in English. This is preferred by many of the middle class people of the city. The girls and boys in my school have different buildings for study, just like in Sakura academy in Osaka, my school. However, the curriculum is very different, the timings are also different. In Japan schools start early morning and end just before evening, here school starts at 9 in the morning and ends at 3 pm. We are not taught cleaning the school or discipline, but every day begins with excersize and singing of national anthem. That is a good thing. India is not as clean as Japan and many people use their motorbikes and cars to travel, public transport is not as developed.

It was not easy for me to adjust to these differences, but the Shinde family helps me a lot. I go to school along with Mr. Shinde who drops me off before going to office. A caretaker helps the grandmother at the wada while everyone is out. The food was also problematic, some food is simple like dal and vegetables, but other things like curry and chicken recipes are hard to digest because they are spicy. Indians cook their food a lot before eating. Chinese food is very popular here, but people have bad idea on Japanese food. I hope you give best of our food to Namrata so she can say our food is not as bad as Indians think.

My day begins at 8 am, the family starts with prayers at the home and devotional music. Everyone goes to office at 9 am and returns at 6 pm. Then I go to school, I am dressed in school uniform, white salwar and black trouser,  and two layers of veil. Though it is not compulsory, I stay gagged when outdoors, Mrs Shinde told me that is how Namrata also did. Tape is used commonly for gags but there are other tools too, this was easier on my jaw. At school, I take off the gag similar to Sakura academy. Here the students don’t interact as much with teachers, the classes are also larger, with 30 to 40 students for one teacher. It is very different experience for me. I feel the system is better in Japan in this respect.

I have made some Indian friends in class, the girls are very friendly here and everyone is interested to know more about Japan and they often ask me things, both girls and boys. Here almost every girl gags herself after they leave school, I too do it to blend in. Dressed in salwar and veils no one can tell I am foreign, it is nice fun experience.

Here in this city, there are many different races and ethnicities. Many of them are Buddhist, there are also many Buddhist vihar here. The practice is little different from Zen Buddhism, different rituals and different approaches. There are many Tibetan here who have established Viharas near and around the city. The Shinde family are Hindu, but they respect my request to visit the Buddhist Vihara every Sunday. I learn that Hindus too venerate the Buddha, they consider him as Avatar of Vishnu. Many Dalit Hindus have converted to Buddhism in the last fifty years and they are the largest community of Buddhists here.

I see on the streets different communities having different fashion for veiling. One for muslims, one for bengali, one for Marathi, one for Punjabi or Sikh. One day I try dressing in burqa worn by Afghan muslim, it was very stuffy and hot, I did not like it very much. The sari is much better, I usually wear either sari or salwar when I am outdoors. In hot times I prefer sari, and in colder times salwar with shawl wrapped around. In some houses, there is rule for keeping hands bound in leather. Once we visited to Mr and Mrs Shinde’s in-law’s house, there we girls had to observe strict rules of modesty. I was gagged at all times and my hands were tied in a leather binder. It was uncomfortable at first but then I got used to it. Indians love having big ceremonies and we visited them for one such right of passage ceremony. When brahmin children turn 13 they are given a sacred thread, it is like a huge ceremony and everyone came in their best dress, there was lots of beautiful saris and jewellery. Some jewellery was also used to tie the hands and as gags, they looked good too.

There are five working days, Thursday and Sunday are holidays. Aside from this there is also vacation for ten days in summer and a month long vacation in the festive season in October. Indians do not work as hard as us Japanese, but they are intelligent so they can get more out of less. There is much inequality here as well, the poor are very poor, the rich are very rich, this is different from Japan. There are such things as slums and ghettos here. My routine begins at 8 in the morning, after that I do school till 3 pm and after that I come back home. At home, I spend time with grandmother of Namrata, then in evening we watch movies or tv show together. I have kept practice with my kinbaku as well, and showed Riya, Namrata’s sister, some methods, she enjoyed it very much. Mrs Shinde also liked it, now I think Shinde family will start practising this method.

I have been here for two weeks now, and as per exchange programme there will be 6 more months to stay here. I hope to learn and interact more during this time and hope to see lot more. I have asked Mr Shinde to visit Bodh Gaya where I will pray for the family.

Warm regards and hugs,

Hitomi Nakamura

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