Sunday, December 9, 2012

Two cultures

Have developed a liking towards the Japanese culture! Many aspects of their culture and country such as the silk Kimonos, the Japanese tea ceremony, their obsession with the 'sakura' (cherry blossom) tree, sake, the Japanese manga and cartoons ('Inu Yasha', 'Dragon Ball Z', 'Cardcaptor Sakura'- to name a few), their love for the Tuna fish, charcoal fish, the importance they attach to the presentation of food, the low tables, absence of chairs, their liking for golf, their fame for cutting edge technologies, the fact that they have a train like the Shinkansen, their sense of perfection (just my opinion) and many, many such things that I can't even remember right now, have always intrigued me.

Guess I was exposed to this truly unique and mesmerizing culture ever since I can remember but like most things near and yet so far (in my mind that is), realization dawned on me only recently! When my college offered basic foreign language courses, I elected to learn Japanese. The course was called “Basic conversation in Japanese” and was offered by ABK-AOTS DOSOKAI, Chennai Centre.

In spite of having a very good instructor, I never managed to learn many Japanese words beyond: sashin (photograph), sakura (cherry blossom; redundant, I know!), nihon/nippon (Japan), nihongo (Japanese language), daigaku (University), and such; and a few sentences such as “watashi wa my-name desu” (meaning “I am my-name", “desu” is just a way of bringing closure to the sentence I was told) and “Hai. Wakarimashita” (meaning, “Yes. I understand”).

My Japanese teacher back then told that Japanese is a lot like Tamil (my mother tongue) when it comes to sentence formation. I was surprised when she said, “Think in Tamil when you initially form a sentence in your mind and then translate; don’t think in English”. In fact, I was surprised when I started watching some South Korean serials (with English subtitles of course), surprised that there were some words that were so similar between Korean and Tamil. ‘Omma’ in Korean means mother. It rang a bell coz in Tamil, it is ‘Amma’. ‘Appa’ in Korean means father. It is the same in Tamil as well; and then there are the words ‘Aigoo’ (Korean) and ‘Aiyoo’ (Tamil), which have a similar meaning and pronunciation.

Was surprised that there is any similarity between these languages at all, considering that they come from different parts of the globe. True that life is never devoid of surprises! I was not exposed to the Japanese script during the course. I heard from a friend who was attending weekend classes that it takes a four year course to completely learn the Japanese script. Whew!

The fact that some of the Japanese liked Tamil movies like Chandrelekha, Muthu makes me glad in a teeny-weeny sense of the word. Of course only a Jap can feel all these elements of their culture in true depth and sense, but the fact that I like it too somehow gladdens me and feels like it has given me refreshing perspective.


Another culture which fascinates me in equal measure is the Italian culture. Talk about Italy and one's mind instantly thinks of places such as Venice, Milan, Florence in Tuscany, Rome and Sicily (was it the Godfather movies from which I heard this one?).

To talk about the Italian cuisine alone, this one post would not do (ever watched David Rocco's cookery show called Dolce Vita?; seems dolce vita means "the good life" I thought it sounds so cool!). With the pastas alone being example enough to speak for the Italian cuisine, it is hardly surprising that Italian cuisine is as famous as it is across the globe. With their innumerable football teams, their innumerable fashion designers, fashion labels, the people (Leonardo da Vinci, Amerigo Vespucci, Marco Polo for some and err, the models?) this shoe shaped country sure is interesting. I am not familiar with the Italian language, though I am a little familiar with the accent (wink). Recently I wrote about the Italian word 'ciao'. Well, as of now, that is the one Italian word I use extensively.

Personally I want to say with all earnestness, that I believe to study and understand the history of my culture and my people, even if I were to give up everything else that I am doing right now and go for it, my one lifetime would not suffice; so what I intend to do (if at all) with these new found likings of mine, remains to be seen.

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