I wish to introduce a special couple- Sarang Datti and Makiko Fujiwara. A mechanical engineer with Indian roots, Sarang moved to Japan when he got a career opportunity. An occupational therapist, Makiko Fujiwara never thought that she would meet, fall in love, and marry Sarang. But here they are, beaming with joy at finding each other. I felt the world needed to know about their story and how they managed to overcome differences in culture, language, and other things to prove that love overpowers all. And so I interviewed them and here it is.
My first question is to you Makiko. What was your first impression about Sarang
Hmm. My first impression of him? Honestly, I can’t recall! I remember feeling that he was so tall and felt that he was handsome. It was in November that we met and he was just wearing a half-sleeved tee-shirt. And I recollect thinking how was he wearing just a tee when it was freezing!
You’ve known each other for a while, and it’s been a couple of months since you guys got married. Do you still sometimes feel that Sarang is a stranger?
Sarang looks at Makiko, probably trying to figure out what she’s thinking, while Makiko too contemplates what I had just asked her.
Are you asking me if Sarang feels like a foreigner to me? No, not really (she laughs). He’s very Japanese! But about a stranger, you know, there are so many times when your really close-best friend feels like a stranger to you.
I couldn’t agree more with her; I smile to myself.
So Sarang, it’s been a couple of years since you moved to Japan. Do you ever regret moving to a foreign land? How does Makiko make you feel like a new home?
I have no regrets moving to Japan and I love it here. About she making it feel like a new home- I feel there’s no difference! I mean, my room back in Bangalore and our room right now here feels the same. I get the same feeling and same vibes when I come back home here too. And honestly, there’s so much freedom. Even after marrying Makiko, I feel like I’m leading the same lifestyle just like before. At least, that’s the case right now with just the two of us. Things will change when our family will grow.
I’m coming to the elephant in the room. The big question that everyone wants to know. What did your parents say when you both told them about marrying a person from a different country, culture, etc.
Makiko- Well, my mom easily agreed. She was quite Okay with anyone I chose to marry. But with my father, he was skeptical about a foreigner. But it was my mother who convinced him. After disagreeing and grumbling for about 10 minutes, he agreed with my mother. I remember my mother clapping with joy. My father was quite surprised that mom agreed so soon. But in the end, they wanted to meet him in person.
Sarang- Oh, my parents were all Okay with it right from the beginning. My parents were eager to meet her as soon as possible. At that time, we were planning for a trip to South Korea. My mom wanted me to bring her there and meet her soon.
How did you feel about meeting each other’s parents?
Makiko- for Sarang, I had built an image at home- about how humble and kind he was. So when Sarang met them for the first time, he shook hands with my father it was all “welcome, welcome” after that. When I visited Sarang’s parents in Bangalore for the first time, it was very welcoming. His parents, sister and other family members were very happy to see me.
Sarang- laughs. 怖い! (Translates to “scary”.)
Honestly, I was scared about meeting her parents, even if she had built a nice image of me. I had even consulted my Japanese friends and colleagues about what I had to talk with her dad. I even wrote it down on paper and kept reading it on my ride to meet her parents. But once I spoke to them, the environment just cooled down. Everything was calm and cool after the first meeting.
You guys had a cross-culture wedding ceremony; one in Indian-style in Bangalore and another in Japanese-style in Miki-shi. How was the overall wedding experience for both of you?
Makiko– In India, the wedding took place for two days. On day one, we went to the temple and I experienced a traditional wedding with all of Sarang’s relatives. It was different from Japanese weddings, but I enjoyed it. On the second day, I met nearly 200 people! They were all of Sarang’s family and friends. It was the first time I was meeting so many people at once, but I enjoyed it.
The food- I relished the masala dosa and I remember eating a lot of cucumbers, yes cucumbers were very tasty! I was draped in a traditional saree, which was very beautiful. On the other hand, the kimono I was wearing in Japan was quite tight and heavy!
Sarang-For me, the Japanese wedding was a unique experience. Even though it’s been four years of staying in Japan, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I felt that everything about the Japanese lifestyle is there in their wedding ceremony- their resourcefulness and timeliness are evidently seen in their wedding ceremonies.
The food? Well, the Japanese wedding food was very grand. But we both couldn’t each much! I too felt the hakama (traditional Japanese attire for the groom) was quite tight!
I have a very hypothetical question for you both. Suppose, suppose your parents and family had disagreed to bringing home a foreigner, what would you have done?
They both look at each other. It feels like they both can’t think of ever giving up on each other. And I feel grateful that this is just a hypothetical question.
Makiko- I think I would have fought. But in Japan, there is no concept of parents saying ‘No’. Even when my brother got married- and my parents weren’t so sure about the girl he got home, they didn’t directly say no to him. They asked him repeatedly if he was sure about marrying that girl, but never said No to his choice.
Sarang- Yes, I think I too would have convinced them. But then, I think my parents are the reason for me to come this far with Makiko. My dad had asked me a handful of times: “Did you find anyone in Japan yet?!”
My last question. How does the future look to both of you?
Makiko- It’s bright and brilliant (she laughs). We want to teach our baby all the languages and culture we’ve been raised with. Kannada, Japanese, and English. I think our baby is going to be a global international person one day.
Sarang- Future… sometimes we talk about moving to another country, but nothing is concrete yet. And right now, we’re happy with the way things are.
Do you ever think of coming back to India, Sarang?
My work here is going so well. And in India, Makiko will have a language barrier. But when we talk about India, she proposes to go there and teach Japanese and make a career like that. Maybe way, way into the future, after we both retire, we plan to stay in India for 6 months in a year and the other 6 months in Japan.
They both nod at each other in agreement.
In the end, I was left with the feeling of absolute happiness for this couple. I must extend a special note about their parent’s support and how important it is. In a country like India, this is even more important- especially when we keep hearing horrendous stories about honour killings.
At the Japanese wedding, Sarang’s father gave a brief speech where he said: “It is said that the marriages are made in heaven, indicating a divine intervention. How true this saying is looking at the marriage of Sarang and Makiko… We are particularly thankful to the Fujiwara family for extending a cordial relationship with our family through this marriage.”
I believe that Sarang and Makiko have shown us many things. I see acceptance and love when I see them. And don’t we need that more and more in today’s world?