Exclusive: Interview with Mrs. Jyotsna Singh, wife of Indian Ambassador in Japan

June 10, 2000

The current Madam Ambassdor Mrs. Jyotsna Singh, was very cooperative to give detailed information about the Sakura Bazaar in spite of her busy schedule. I had a dialogue with Madam Ambassador, exclusively for NRIOL.COM - the Non-Resident Indian community on the internet, and I am sure you all will find this to be interesting.

Pooja : How and when did this activity start?

Mrs. Singh : This activity started about 12 years ago. Initially it was a sort of Holi festival get-together for the Indian community in Tokyo at the Embassy auditorium. Then as the Sakura trees were in bloom about end-march, it was decided to convert it into a charity bazaar, open to both the Indian Community and the Japanese public to attend.

Pooja : When do you start preparing for this event?

Mrs. Singh : We start preparing for the event about 3-4 months in advance. Our ingredients for the food stalls and the handicrafts are brought from India for this event.

Pooja : What is the main organization base for this event?

Mrs. Singh : Rachana Club is the main organization base.

Pooja : Will you please describe the variety of stalls in the Sakura Bazaar?

Mrs. Singh : The following are the stalls put up at the Sakura Bazaar Tandoori Chicken, Naan and Salad, Chana Puri, Masala Dosa, with Sambar, Batata wada, Chicken curry and rice, Papri Chaat, Sweets- Indian and some cake, Samosas, Indian Tea, Cold Drinks ,Indian Handicrafts ,Mehendi application and Bindi accessories.

Pooja : I understand that the food sold is fresh. How do you manage this since you can't predict the exact date of this event?

Mrs. Singh : We are able to get an estimate of when the trees will bloom as the ward office puts out a "Sakura Watch". Since it is always held on a Sunday we choose the weekend closest to full bloom and then pray hard ! Most of the food is prepared by the ladies only a day or so in advance. We also own a freezer which allows us to store a few items in advance.

Pooja : What is the charity part of this event? Who selects the organisations to whom the donation is to be given?

Mrs. Singh :The entire event is for charity. Rachana club members select the organization to whom the donation is given after checking our the bona fides of these organizations that approach the club.

Pooja : If you may kindly allow me to ask you about the amount of donation collected this year, I would like to know the details like which stall contributed maximum to the donation this year? And was it more than last year ?

Mrs. Singh : Last year we had distributed Rs. 80,000 each to 8 organisations in India and Japan. This will give you an idea of the collection we get. I am sorry but that is about what I can tell though all the stalls do very well, sales depend upon what item is sold.

Pooja : How is the coordination information handled from one Madam Ambassdor to the next? Do you keep files and detailed analysis etc? Do you maintain list of contact numbers and participating volunteers?

Mrs. Singh : We maintain papers with detailed analysis which are handed on from one President to the next. Yes, we keep lists of participating volunteers.

Pooja : What is the role of the Embassy staff in this event? Are they also involved in the planning of this event, or do they only support on the day of the event?

Mrs. Singh : The Embassy staff also helps us for this event both in advance and on the day of the bazaar. Many tasks are completed by them and their voluntary support is invaluable.

Pooja : Does this event increase the popularity of Indian culture, food, among Japanese people? If yes, has it reflected in the increase in number of Japanese touring to India since it started?

Mrs. Singh : Many of the people who attend the bazaar are regulars who wait for the event every year. They enjoy the picturesque location of the Embassy as well as look forward to home cooked Indian food. In that sense it enhances Indian culture. But there are always new comers every year who have come out to Chidorigafuchi to enjoy the cherry blossoms and walk in to sample the Indian food and handicrafts. And there are others who have seen announcement in the newspapers and are curious and interested in India so they make the effort to come. But whether this event is the sole cause of the popularity of Indian culture in Japan, I am doubtful. Also tourism to India is dependent on so many aspects so I am not sure we can take much credit for the small increase in the last one year, since previously Japanese tourists to India were on slight decrease.

Pooja : I understand that the cherry trees, the main basis of this festival are getting older and there is a fear that if they decay more, there will be no cherry trees around. I heard it takes many years to get a cherry tree blossom. I am sure Embassy is aware of this fact. Is there any alternative plan towards solving the decaying of trees?

Mrs. Singh : As the cherry trees are the property of the chiyoda ward, we are confident that adequate and responsible care is taken to maintain the trees and their blossoms. Chidorigafuchi is among the best viewing sights for cherry blossoms in Tokyo and the ward office is well aware of its onerous responsibilities. Consequently, the Embassy is not unduly concerned that adequate care will not be taken. On our part we fulfill all the responsibilities necessary to keep our grounds properly maintained.

Pooja : How do you like it? In other words are there any unpleasant experiences associated with this event?

Mrs. Singh : In my many years of organizing and participating in charity bazaars, the Sakura Bazaar is quite unique. The continuous enthusiasm of the people who work as well as those who attend is amazing. Also the location of the venue with the outstanding beauty of the cherry blossoms and the beautiful blue skies above make this event awe-inspiring.

Mrs. Singh can be contacted at the Indian Embassy located at following address : Address : Tokyo, Chiyoda Ku, Kudan Minami 2-2-11 Tel: 03-3262-2391

- Interviewed by Pooja Sardeshmukh in Tokyo,Japan for NRIOL.COM

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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