A Japanese scholar pursues Hindi with a passion
At first impression the impeccably-draped saree on her petite frame suggests some kind of fondness for India. But it is only when scholar-writer Tomoko Kikuchi waxes eloquent in chaste Hindi about authors like Mahadevi Varma, Krishna Sobti and Prabha Khaitan and their writings that the sincerity of this love comes to the fore.
As a young girl growing up in Japan her fascination with the diverse culture, traditions and history of India led her to enroll in a basic Hindi language course in Tokyo to better appreciate the country.
“To understand a country’s culture thoroughly, one must know the language well. So, I chose Hindi or perhaps the language chose me,” says Dr. Kikuchi who was in Lucknow to participate in the 24th international literary festival organized by the Hindi-Urdu Sahitya Award Committee this past weekend.
India has been home to this Hindi/Japanese writer and translator since 1992, the year when she earned a scholarship for a one-year Hindi diploma at an Agra institute. And that just whetted her appetite for the language. She stayed back and pursued a graduation degree from Jaipur and later went on to do her M.A. and Ph.D. in Hindi Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.
“It wasn’t easy living in a small city (Jaipur) in the early 90s. I had my share of unpleasant experiences, but I had to finish what I had started. I feel I must have been an Indian in my previous birth,” jokes Dr. Kikuchi who has published a book on the works of noted Hindi writer Mahadevi Varma. She has also completed several translation projects independently and for the Delhi-based Japan Foundation.
In fact, translation is where her heart lies. “I come from a country that was terribly scarred by World War-II. There is limited reading material available on the disaster and the consequent suffering for kids in India.”
That’s what prompted her to translate a Japanese children’s storybook on the Hiroshima bombings in Hindi. “I also dubbed an animation film in Hindi. I feel if we want world peace, then people, especially children, from different cultures and countries should get familiar with each other so that there are no hostilities among them.”
“Cultural exchange between countries is very important. I feel using my skills in Hindi and Japanese, I can contribute in my own way offering a glimpse into the life and literature of one country to another,” says Dr.
Kikuchi whose husband shares her passion for India and has even acquired an Indian citizenship. The couple along with their two daughters has set up a permanent home in Gurgaon.