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Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008

MIXED MATCHES

Indian wedding adds spice to married life


Staff writer

Arguably one of the most interesting things about an international marriage is experiencing the wedding ceremony of a different culture.

News photo
New horizons: Krishna and Kaori Manda pose near the Windsor Hotel Toya in Hokkaido in August. COURTESY OF KRISHNA AND KAORI MANDA

Just ask Tokyo native Kaori Manda. Kaori, 31, whose maiden name is Miyahara, did not have her wedding in Japan, where ceremonies tend to last about two or three hours and religion plays little if any role.

Rather, she went through an intensive two weeks of preparation to learn the culture and wedding rituals of Visakhapatnam (Vizag), a midsize city in southern India, where her husband, Krishna, 32, is from.

That was the beginning of her commitment to the world's second most populous country, where she intends to move in the near future.

A housewife now, Kaori used to work as a tour conductor and a teacher at a public elementary school. Krishna, who is fluent in Japanese, works for a financial services company in Tokyo. They live in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

How did you meet?

Krishna: We were introduced by Kaori's friend at a get-together party. It was love at first sight. It was November 2001.

What brought you to Japan?

Krishna: I studied in Japan for three years from the age of 11. My father was working for the Indian tourism bureau and got transferred to Japan. My family left Japan in 1989, but I liked Japan and was determined to return. I went to high school and university and started working for an IT company in India and had an opportunity to come to Japan in April 1999. I have lived in Japan since then.

Was it difficult to gain your family's support for your marriage?

Krishna: Our parents did not particularly object to our marriage but were worried if we can be happy together considering the vast family differences. So they said, "Show us that you are happy so we do not worry." It took some time to convince them that we will be happy, but eventually they came around to it.

Kaori: My parents were opposed at first because they did not know Krishna. So my elder brother came to meet us at our place. He told my parents that Krishna is a nice person. Then my parents met him, and they liked him.

Krishna: My father came to Tokyo three months after I told them and met Kaori's parents. He then proposed that Kaori go to India and spend time with my family so that they can get to know each other well. My father, who is fluent in Japanese, was in Japan around September 2003 to meet her parents.

When did you get married?

Kaori: First, we went to the Setagaya Ward Office in December 2003 to register our marriage, but we didn't have a real wedding. Just a casual party. In India, the wedding day was Jan. 31, 2004. But I went four weeks before that.

What did you do in India?

Kaori: I helped Krishna's mother with housework, studied traditional weddings in Vizag from his sister and the wife of his cousin and bought decorations for a wedding dress with them. My parents, younger brother and older brother came to India three days before the wedding day.

On Jan. 29, I underwent a ritual to purify myself by putting turmeric on my body. It is meant to show penitence for bad things I have done in my life and to become a clean person.

The next day, we held an engagement ceremony, in which my family gave saris to Krishna's female relatives and fabric to his male relatives.

Jan. 31 was the real wedding day. Krishna went through many rituals from 8 a.m. And the wedding ritual began at 6 p.m., with about 300 guests at a beach hotel. The moment we got married was 8:24 p.m. The ritual lasted until midnight.

On Feb. 1, some more rituals started at 4:30 a.m. Everything ended at 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. and we had lunch together.

Krishna: In Vizag, a majority of people get married in "omiai," or arranged weddings, and in many cases, brides and grooms have not met each other until marriage.

What exactly happened at 8:24 p.m.?

Krishna: We mixed some jaggery, cumin seeds and some other spices and placed them on each other's heads at 8:24 p.m. We stuck them on each other's heads and what this signifies is that in sweet times (jaggery) and bitter times (cumin), we are going to be together forever.

What are some good things about having a partner from a different country?

Krishna: The diversity in the family is definitely a good thing. You get to learn a lot about different cultures and you grow to accept it. The family becomes more open-minded away from caste and other differences that hold in India. But most importantly, you start to respect each other's countries and build a relationship.

Kaori: We can become generous as we find out that we have many different views. Every day is a new day for us.

What are the difficulties about having a partner from a different country?

Krishna: Food. I am a vegetarian and never saw meat in my house since I was young. But eating meat is normal for Kaori. Food overall can be challenging, but you grow to accept it eventually.

Kaori: We like and dislike different things. I like sushi, "natto" fermented soybeans, sashimi and other Japanese food, but Krishna does not like them. He can, however, eat ramen, "soba," tempura and tofu. I do not like Indian sweets very much. I also do not like yogurt on rice. But I like curry and cook it at home often.

Would you like a child? What is your family plan?

Kaori and Krishna: We would like a child soon. And we would like to move to India in the next couple of years.

Why India?

Krishna: I know Japan, but Kaori's knowledge of India is more limited. I would like her to understand life and culture in India.

Kaori: Because he wants to go to India. Also, for child-rearing, I would prefer living in India. If we live in Japan, our child would not understand Indian culture at all, and I don't feel right about that. I will speak Japanese at home.

Krishna: For a child, I would like them to live the first 10 years in India and go to Japan at age 11 or 12, like I did.

Are you visiting India regularly?

Krishna and Kaori: We've gone to India every year since 2004. We stay there about two weeks each time.

What is the most fun experience you had together?

Krishna and Kaori: When we are together, even difficult things become fun.

Reader participation is invited for this series, which appears every other Saturday (Sunday in some areas). If you wish to be featured, please e-mail hodobu@japantimes.co.jp


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