By Shubhankar Shah
It was a hot afternoon in Vasco when we heard that the flight was delayed. But when they arrived, the Japanese strode through the airport, fresh as ever with happy countenances. A glimmer of excitement and wonder shone on their faces.Eight students from Waseda University, Japan had come to Chowgule College, Margao as part of the annual Chowgule College- Waseda University Student Exchange Programme. Each year a number of students of Chowgule College ae selected to go to Japan for two weeks and their Japanese counterparts come to Goa, as part of the cultural exchange programme. This year the itinerary for the Japanese students included various special classes featuring topics such as Goan cuisine, traditional folk dances of Goa, education system in India, religious diversity in Goa as well as field trips to places of historical importance such as Tambdi Surla, Mangeshi temple, Basilica of Bom Jesus and various heritage homes throughout Goa. Yoga along with Zumba also featured prominently in their schedule.
The Japanese students were quite excited to be in the land of Bollywood and curry, as India is famous for in Japan. They were amazed at how spicy the Indian food is but relished the cuisine which included masala fried-fish and curry. According to Shunsuke Sasaki, a student of International Law, “I don’t like spicy food but Indian food is delicious and I cannot stop eating it!” What was amusing was that the Japanese did not like the sweets. Our Indian sweets like gulab jamun and kheer were not their favourite dishes but fish was a clear cut favourite with all them.
Chennai Express was the only Indian movie that the Japanese were familiar with and were in for a shock when they learned that Bollywood is not just about song and dance. Kosuke Takenaka admitted that he thought all Indians loved dancing, as portrayed in Indian movies. Minoru Onuma was amazed at the complex plot of a recently released Indian movie, which he saw at a local theatre in Margao. “I did not understand the dialogues as they were in Hindi, but I could make out what the movie was about and was surprised to find very few songs in the movie” said Minoru. Tomohiro Kobayashi, a law student added by saying, “I was surprised to see that Indian movies have a five minute interval in between. I wish Japanese theatres incorporate such a break.”
After visiting the temples and churches in Goa, Tomohiro, reflected that he had thought that India was all about Hindus and Hinduism, but seeing people of all religions entering temples and churches was really astonishing for him. He was amazed with the harmony that the Indian people shared in terms of religion.
Homestay was a part of the exchange programme in which the students stayed with families of Chowgule College students, and was admittedly the most memorable experience for the Japanese. The first thing that the Japanese students noticed about Indian houses was their size. They all recalled that their houses in Japan were very small compared to Indian houses. They never missed a chance to take pictures of anything they found to be fascinating and strange, and were always ready to try new things ranging from eating local Indian fruits to experiencing the local bus ride.
The heat and humidity was a challenge for the students, coming from a cold climate but all weather related issues were resolved with a trip to the beach. The students also shared the Goan love of football and played with immense passion against the Chowgule College students and staff, eventually winning a game or two.
As part of the exchange programme, I along with five other Chowgule college students went to Tokyo in the month of November 2014 and the experiences that we had were unforgettable. The kindness and humility that the Japanese exuded was something that I found to be rare in India and I hope to treasure as well as to learn from my travel experiences to such a modern yet grounded country. Reflecting my thoughts, Tomohiro exclaimed, “I have been to various countries for such exchange programmes, and all of them have taught me something or the other, that I have taken back with me to Japan.”
Our languages may have differed but we both shared the same emotions as we shook hands in farewell – he saying “Sayonora” and me, “Dev bore korum…”
(Student of FY B,A Chowgule College of Arts and Science, Margao)