'Origami is my yoga'

EXPAT SPEAK

Frequent travellers at the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) corridor often come across a dewy-eyed lady waiting for a school bus, her hands constantly engaged in creasing and folding small square sheets of paper.

“At times people stop by to ask what I am doing and even miss their bus to see how I complete the folds and join them together to create shapes for our annual exhibition,” says Hitomi Ashta, president of Origami Oritai - the only origami club in the city.

As she waits for her children to come back from school, Metrolife, intrigued by her love for the art form and her association with India, engages her in a friendly chat. Hitomi humbly opens up about her life and shares her little love story that led to her marriage to an Indian.

“I was born and brought up in Nagoya, a town between Osaka and Tokyo in Japan and aspired to be a school teacher,” says Hitomi, also a black belt in Shorinji Kempo – a form of martial art. Though her gentle personality blies this, she proves it by telling what the people sitting 170 degree left are doing, without turning her head! 
   
It was, however, while learning English from a private institution that she met a young Indian Ashok Ashta who had come to teach at “Nagoya University as part of a fellowship exchange programme from Williams College, Massachusetts, where he was doing his graduation in liberal arts”. Like a true Bollywood romance, the sparks flew but the two couldn’t understand their love for each other till Ashok went back to America and the two got separated.

“Soon after completion of his degree he came to Japan and we confessed to each other that we felt something,” says Hitomi who got married in a Japanese-style wedding and both settled in Japan. “Ashok learnt Japanese faster than I learnt English,” she laughs narrating the tale. “In Japanese, Ashita means ‘tomorrow’ so after marriage I was lovingly called ‘Mrs Tomorrow’.”

A decade later, “one day he came home and said lets go back to India and I said OK.” The testing time for Hitomi thus began. “It was a challenge for me to come here,” says Hitomi recollecting how she faced the culture shock, yet managed to survive. “My ability to see 170 degree was good but I didn’t want to see what was happening on the roads in India. The display of power and richness was too much,” she says.

“My view of India was through a window since my in-laws were over-protective and didn’t let me go out alone initially. All this led me to engage myself in origami,” she says, folding a paper and placing it before Metrolife photographer. It is amazing to see that she had created a frog to amuse the lensman who was waiting to get a perfect picture of this camera-shy lady.

“Travelling from my house in Panchsheel Enclave to the Japan Foundation (where her club holds workshops), I create flowers, balls, animals and everything possible. I started this club because I wanted people in India to know that it’s good to work and grow together. Origami is my yoga!”

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