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Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008
Brought together by fate — and a whim
Rajesh and Kayo Prasad have no doubt they were destined to marry.
In 1996, almost on a whim Rajesh, from Manipur in northeastern India, entered Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, where he met his future wife, Kayo Shiozaki.
A friend had reminded him the university was holding an entrance exam the next day and on the spur of the moment he decided to take it. If he hadn't taken that exam or hadn't been accepted, he would not have met Kayo, he says.
They spent four years as friends in India, three years in a long-distance relationship and three years dating in Japan. After knowing each other for 10 years, they married in Tokyo in 2006.
Their golden wedding rings are engraved with a pattern of fire and water, representing their two personalities.
Rajesh now works at a bank and Kayo is a political researcher at a consulting firm in Tokyo. They live in Saitama Prefecture with their 9-month-old daughter, Riya, which means singer in Sanskrit.
How did you meet?
Rajesh: We were classmates in the master's program at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
What did you think of your partner when you first met?
Rajesh: I thought she was a skinny girl!
Kayo: I was actually sick. Especially in a dormitory, viruses can spread easily. I lost 4 kg in a year. When I first saw Rajesh, I wondered where he was from. He didn't look like an Indian.
Why did you choose to study in India?
Kayo: When I was a senior at Meiji Gakuin University's Yokohama campus, I took a seminar on Indian affairs and went on a three-week field trip in northern India. I conducted research on an old custom called "sati," a funeral practice in which a recently widowed woman would immolate herself on her husband's funeral pyre. After the trip, I thought it'd be interesting to get a master's degree in India.
What brought you to Tokyo?
Kayo: I came back to Japan in 2000 after my four-year stay in India. After completing my degree, I was very busy studying Hindi and teaching Japanese. I became very sick.
Rajesh: Fortunately, I received a Japanese government scholarship and I came to Tokyo in 2003 as a researcher at Waseda University. One day, I accompanied my friend who was submitting his application to Waseda University and got to know they have an MBA course. The deadline was the next day. I gathered everything I needed, including recommendations from my professors, and got accepted. I was really lucky.
How did your relationship start?
Rajesh: We became friends when I took her to a hospital in New Delhi. It was so painful for her even to walk!
Kayo: I had a strong pain in my ribs. I still don't know what kind of disease it was.
Rajesh: Some of my friends even thought she was my girlfriend, but we were just friends. In 2001, I went to Japan temporarily for my research. I went back to India and realized Kayo was the one for me. I called her and proposed. It became a costly relationship! I spent half of my income on Internet and telephone calls. We also met once every six months in India, Japan or in other Asian countries.
Kayo: Calling to India was very expensive at that time, but we talked over the phone every day.
What do you find interesting about your partner's culture?
Kayo: It's interesting that Indians create their own English terms, sometimes mixing with Hindi. When speaking in English, they use a word such as "prepone," the opposite of postpone, or "sarkar," the Hindi word meaning government.
Indians can be also more aggressive than Japanese, but I got used to it during my four-year stay in India.
Rajesh: I call it outspoken. Japanese people think it's better not to tell what they think, but Indians think the opposite.
Kayo: It's sometimes hard when he asks questions, or complains about Japanese things or rules that cannot be changed. However, I'm also influenced by him and I'm changing.
What is your favorite food from your partner's country?
Kayo: I like "paratha" flat bread stuffed with potatoes or cauliflower, "rasgulla" sweet balls made with milk powder soaked in syrup and "dosa" South Indian crepe made from rice and lentils.
Rajesh: I like almost everything. I like "natto" fermented soybeans because we also eat it in Manipur. The one we have is more spicy, though.
What was your wedding like?
Rajesh: Nearly 150 people came to our wedding.
Kayo: We wore Indian costumes even though it was a Christian-style wedding, and served Indian food from the best Indian restaurant in Tokyo.
Rajesh: Before Kayo left India for Japan, I actually told her to buy a red sari for her wedding. At that time, I had no idea we would marry. However, I used to say to myself that I would marry a girl like Kayo. It's indeed a dream come true.
What languages do you use around your daughter?
Kayo: I speak Japanese to her.
Rajesh: I speak to her in English and will teach her Hindi and Manipuri, the local language spoken in my hometown of Manipur.
And your dream for the future?
Rajesh: To build our own home.
Kayo: With an alcove.
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