Oriental scripts

Michiko Tendulkar has been running Pune Nippon Library at her home for the last 24 years to help students learn Japanese

The sharp contrast in choice is evident. A Japanese book detailing the horrors of World War II in Japan and a Hindi book on the late singer Mohammed Rafi share space on a shelf in Michiko Tendulkar's Japanese library at her home in Apte Road. Thirty eight years of living in India has had its effects. "Now, I am more Indian than Japanese," says the 69-year-old.

Tendulkar first came to India in 1965 for her advanced studies in Hindi at Delhi. She chose Hindi against English because "it offered a richer experience of India." Then came many trips back and forth between the two countries till in the mid 1970s the Japanese government asked her to come to India and teach the language. "There were no jobs initially, neither at home nor here because they didn't need anyone speaking Hindi in Japan and here Japanese was still a curious oriental language. But by and large policies changed back home and they understood the importance of teaching Japanese to foreigners. That is how I first landed in Mumbai in 1972 and then in Pune in 1981," she says.

Tendulkar also taught for nine years at the department of Foreign Language Studies, Pune University, before quitting to become a freelance teacher. "The idea of starting a library came up then. There were good libraries for students in the university and the Indo-Japanese Association offices but I wanted to start one too. Every year the Japanese government donates thousands of books to students and people who are involved in teaching Japanese so I built my collection. Now there are over 4,000 books at the Pune Nippon Library here," she says.

While looking back at the origins of the library, Tendulkar's mind is full with plans for the future too. "A lot of students ask me if there is a reading room in my house, where they can study. I turn them away because there is not much space but I plan to start one at my husband's factory in Hadapsar, which is currently empty. Also I loan books to Japanese people who are in the city and wish to read local Japanese literature. I have started building up a collection of English books too. I realised I haven't read Hindi literature in a long time and I need to do that. Life is very short, I feel now, you know," she says.

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