The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Business booms as love blooms in Bodhgaya

Bodhgaya, June 2: When 50-year-old tourist guide Nandalal Sau greeted young Movinoto Masako with “Konichua (welcome)” in April 2000, he didn’t expect them to be married by July.

Nandalal, a Bihari, was in Calcutta airport to accompany the daughter of a Japanese Buddhist-temple employee to Bodhgaya — the spiritual destination for more than a dozen countries.

Three months later when Masako returned to Bodhgaya, without a guide this time, she met Nandalal again and said she loved him.

“She said she had to revisit Bodhgaya. This time, she stayed for 10 days. When she was alone, I was her only companion. She expressed her love for me,” he said.

But Nandalal, already married, was unwilling to marry a woman almost 20 years his junior. “She went back to her country. But a month later, when she discovered she was pregnant by me, I couldn’t help... we married,” he said.

Nandalal was not alone in marrying a Japanese woman tourist to Bodhgaya. He was one of 15 Bihari men who had fallen in love with and married Japanese women, out to seek spiritual solace.

An equal number of couples are said to be having an affair and may follow suit to the temple.

“One reason for the Japanese girls falling in love with Indian men is the attention these girls get from their guides in India,” Bhikhu Bodhipala, monk in charge of Mahabodhi Mahavihara, said.

“In Japan, life is hectic and people have no time. The consistency in the behaviour of the men (here) draws them.”

Laced with love and longing, tourism in Bodhgaya has taken a curious turn with the Buddhist pilgrim town playing host to marital and business unions of Indian men and Japanese women.

Nandalal and Masako set up Laxmi Guest House on a piece of land they bought with her money. “Without her financial assistance, this would not have been possible,” he said.

For Masako, of Nisibaki city, her husband and two sons by him are more important. With Nandalal’s first wife not averse to her, Masako has decided to put down roots here for good. Now, she is busy picking up Hindi.

Like Nandalal, 10 other Bihari men have struck gold with their Japanese wives and set up hotels with the Yen the women brought.

Sudama Prasad and Yuki Inoue, too, have a hotel. But Inoue also has a school. “Our love affair is like a fairy tale. There were cultural differences between our two countries, but things got sorted out,” Yuki said.

Unlike Nandalal, Sudama, who was an interpreter with Jet-Airways and Indus Heritage, was fluent in Japanese. He met Yuki when she was in Bodhgaya in 1997. They were married a year later.

Sudama and Yuki now have two children.

Yuki remembers the time her parents had screamed “blood” on seeing the vermilion in her hair-parting. “Minor hiccups like these eased out soon. My parents became accommodative.”

Though most of these Japanese women took to the Indian way of life, none gave up their religion.

“This is a triumph of the truth that love transcends culture, economy and territory barriers,” Kalicharan Yadav, secretary, Bodhgaya Temple management committee.

If some have chosen to stay on in Bodhgaya, others such as Vinay Sau and Ajay Sau have left with their wives for Japan for good.

According to observers here, the Bihari youths are not only breaking cultural barriers, but also feudalistic mindsets in seeking out a new life with foreign women.

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