Little India: Overseas Indian, NRI, Asian Indian, Indian American

Expat Voice: The Flavor of India

Mariko Narita at Pangong Lake, Ladakh

It was work that brought Mariko Narita from Japan to India. She fell in love with the country as she arrived in Delhi for the first time in 2015. Narita went back to Japan the following year, only to return later — determined to work in India, she tells Little India.

“I came back to Delhi in 2017 as I was sure that I wanted to spend some more time in India,” says Narita, who hails from a city near Tokyo, and works in a Japanese HR consulting company in Delhi. She tells us about how she finds India similar, yet different, from her home country.

Drawing Similarities

India and Japan are very different in various ways, but culturally I feel both countries are quite similar. Indians, whether they are children or middle-aged, are very respectful towards their elders. I like the fact that the younger generation takes care of the elders of the family. It’s nice to see that the elders can bank on the younger generations to be their caretakers. The culture is quite similar in Japan, people respect their respect their elders and make them an integral part of their lives. I feel, perhaps, that is the only similarity that the two countries share.

A Huge Gap

Something that really amazed me when I came here was the gap between the cream of the society and the poor. I saw them on the streets begging or making makeshift houses and earning their livelihood by selling toys and other things at signals and felt that the gap between these two layers of the society needs to diminish. Once I was in a car, when suddenly a beggar approached my car and started knocking and thumping on the windows. I was immensely scared, to the extent that it stayed with me for a long time. It doesn’t bother me anymore and sometimes, I even end up smiling or waving at some of them.

Starting a New Journey

I did not face any hurdles adjusting to life in India. I made some wonderful friends who showed me around Delhi and helped me when required. I have many Indian friends who I really bank on. Indian food is full of flavors and spices, and I enjoy having it off and on. My favorites are some of the dishes from the north-eastern part of India, like momo or thupka, as they are quite similar to what we eat in Japan. I also like having the Indian curries sometimes.

Travelling Across India

I have traveled to many places in India with friends and I love the memories that we have created together. Visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra was a great experience. It is only when I saw the famous monument that I understood why it is one of the seven wonders of the world. The Taj was stunning and a memory that I will cherish for a long time.

I have also visited Rishikesh and it was great fun as my friends and I tried rafting in the rapids. For me it is an experience of a lifetime and I was quite thrilled that I tried something adventurous in India. After we were done with rafting, my friends and I took a dip in the Ganga. Ladakh was another place that left me mesmerized. The crystal clear Pangong lake in Ladakh was extremely picturesque.

The Indian Standard Time

Initially when I came to India, I would religiously follow schedules and the time that I promised. However, I realized that no one here is on time. I started noticing that people were at least 15 minutes late. I would get quite upset and even angry, sometimes. Now, I have managed to devise a way around it by keeping a buffer of 15 minutes or so between meetings. This helps me in extending some meetings when people are late.

Mariko Narita taking a boat ride on the Ganga river in Varanasi

The Nine Yards

I love sari as it is a beautiful piece of clothing. Indian women look beautiful in saris. I recently tried it for an office party. After a friend helped me drape it, I realized that I could hardly walk, let alone wear it for the entire duration of the party. So I ended up not wearing it. But I do admire it.

Making Roti

I have an Indian boyfriend and his mother often invites me over for home-cooked food. On many such occasions, I have tried making roti and although initially they were unpalatable, later I did get it right. Making round chapatis is quite a challenge, but I enjoy the process and the best part is the appreciation I get from my boyfriend’s family.

Train Journeys in India

I had heard a lot about Indian trains being dirty, but my experience has been quite different. I traveled from Delhi to Jodhpur as well as Agra and, in fact, enjoyed the train journey. It wasn’t as dirty as I had heard and the best part was getting to see the countryside. From patches of dry farmland to lush green fields, and the small houses in villages, travelling in a train through rural India is a wonderful experience.

The interview has been condensed and edited.

Expat Voice is regular column on expats in India. Email us at expat@littleindia.com to nominate yourself or another expat for the column.