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Look East: A new son rises

After receiving the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Ray with Rossette from the Japanese Emperor for promoting better understanding between India and Japan, Professor Emiritus of Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University Dr Satya Bhushan Varma is all set to receive yet another honour, the Masaoka Shiki International Haiku award in Japan this year. SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY writes... .

HE HAS many firsts to his credit - first professor of Japanese language and literature in India; author of the first Japanese-Hindi dictionary; first Indian to receive `the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Ray with Rossette'; and now the first Indian selected for the prestigious Masaoka Shiki International Haiku Award.

Basking in the glory of this latest laurel, which he would formally receive in December this year in Japan, Japanese language expert and professor emeritus of Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, Dr Satya Bhushan Verma says, "I can also be called the first to promote Haiku poetry in India". While the Indian academia looked towards West for knowledge, Varma jumped into the look East policy. Fully involved in the development of the JNU's Japanese department, the only degree-awarding centre in the language in India, the professor not only translated many Japanese manuscripts into Hindi, but also brought out a bi-monthly in the Indian national language on Haiku poetry.

"Many Haikus written in other Indian regional languages were also published in the magazine in Devnagiri script which introduced haiku to Indian readers in the real sense," he adds. One of his books in Hindi, "Japani Kabitaye" published Haikus in Japanese script alongside their Hindi translations.

"This book created interest in many Indian readers to enjoy Haiku," he says, mentioning that he is in touch with the publishers for a reprint.

Recognising his years-long effort towards promotion of Indo-Japanese collaboration in literature, the Ehime Cultural Foundation of Japan has selected Verma for the bi-yearly award given in the name of one of the four great pillars of Haiku, Masaoka Shiki. The year 2002 being the 100th death anniversary of Shiki, Verma attaches it great prestige.

"Baso, Boson, Issa and Shiki are considered the four greatest poets of Haiku in Japan. I am really happy that the award named after Shiki will be conferred on me," adds this Sahityakaar Sammaan awardee. Involved in many Indo-Japanese friendship organisations, Verma is also pleased that he would visit the birthplace of Shiki - Matsuyama - to receive the award.

"I visited Matsuyama in 1971 and am really looking forward to see the city again during the International Haiku Festival. The additional shine will be the award-receiving occasion," he conveys with a smile.

A many timer to Japan, this former visiting professor of Kyoto-based International Research Centre for Japanese Studies and Academic Advisor in Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University authored his Hindi-Japanese dictionary there. "It took me one year to compile more than 10,000 words," he says.

Satisfied at the growing interest among youngsters in learning the language, the veteran, however, rues that the JNU's Japanese department is the only academic institution in the entire country to confer degree on Japanese. `The situation should improve," he says.

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