Professor Anita Khanna and her students have been loving everything Japanese for a long time now. Right from the page-turning, finger-biting prose of Haruki Murakami read in “Japanese and not the English translation”, to sushi at the local bistro. Therefore, when the Japanese First Lady Akie Abe spoke “100 per cent Japanese” to them at a special interaction organised at the Japan Embassy here on Saturday, it was “as if they were just speaking in English”.
The Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is here as a special guest for the Republic Day parade and his wife Akie Abe had come armed with several books from her personal library to give to students of Japanese. “I have some books, which I hope you will like, and there are also some that my husband is currently reading,” she said. She also spoke about the deep connection between the two countries and how much she was looking forward to seeing the famed parade.
“We spoke of many things — books, culture, and our course and even about food,” said Kaushika, an MPhil student at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre of Japanese Studies where Prof. Khanna is the chairperson. “We picked some of our best students to come for the interaction,” she said, pointing to group, which included Swathi Narayanan, an MA student who visited Japan and thought that it was just like the Japan she had learned about. “In fact, several of us visit Japan through some scholarship programme or the other,” said Arpita Paul, an M. Phil student. “Neither of us had learnt a word of Japanese before we decided to pursue it as a full-time degree,” she admitted.
For the students from Delhi University, it has been a different experience. “I taught Japanese to school children for around nine years and then took some years off to improve my skills. Meeting the Japanese premier’s wife and talking in Japanese was nice,” said Anju Raghav. Varsha Sindhu, also a student of Japanese, albeit for a lesser number of years agreed, “It was challenging trying to talk with correct pronunciation and grammar since I have just started learning the language.” Varsha quit her job, which was “far removed from anything Japanese”, to study a new language.