Lost in Translation: Mom in Tokyo

various baby food options availableBY ALOKANANDA MUKHERJEE

Thank GOD, the parcel was out but I was scared. Dead scared that they were sending us home alone with something about which we hardly knew much. Well, I was equipped with knowledge. I knew about burping the baby, bathing her, feeding her every two hours. I had helped my friends with babies in times of need. Yet I was apprehensive on how we would fare as parents.

Postpartum pains, bowel movements, elderly advice, booby politics, a hand-me-down breast pump and a month later I came face to face with a thought that we are to leave for Japan. Good thing for my husband for sure, he had stayed in the country for three years before and was rejoining the same company, but for me not really. My settling down with the baby with ample help from the M and MIL were shattered. Sleepless nights began again. Misha was a darling. She slept all night since she was just a few days old. The “everything will be fine” husband assured again that “we will manage”, but I knew that this was probably the end of my dreams and plans.

The day came and we did move to Japan with a 3 month old Misha. The long flight went off smoothly, apart from the continuous wailing at the Yokohama station, but the feeding rooms across stations helped me pacify her and here began my first experience of the country. She was exclusively breast fed till 6 months.

The Indian doctors had advised us to give her food jars when she was 6 months. But the “only Japanese” labels makes it difficult for us to understand, and good or not was another issue altogether. So home cooked pureed food it was. That meant more back-breaking work for me. Barely two and a half people at home and each ate a different kind of food, with too many variations. The baby had to be introduced to new flavors and a variety to top it all. Once again I went to seek the blessings of “Google baba,” and the first food for her was avocado.

I was never a tech geek. But today, Google translate is one of the most cherished tools on my phone. It even translates labels for me. The biggest concern of staying in Japan is that you hardly know what you are buying. The milk is milk because there is a cow on the cartoon. And if you want to know what percentage of fat it has, may god help you.
Having said that language is a big constraint, Japanese are very helpful and polite people. All babies are required to register at the block office and treatments along with vaccinations for babies are free. The baby record book is detailed and even has a few English pages. I was overwhelmed because the lady at the ward office was using the Google translate as well, but she was translating Japanese so that I understand that in English. Then there was a search for a English speaking pediatric, which we found easily and thankfully.

Misha is a happy and hungry child. She loves the ladies in the train who usually cuddle her for her Indian features. She flashes those gummy smiles at the old women who are amused that she is “kawai”(cute) and “indie”. Maybe she misses the coochiecoo of grandmothers back home and the big Indian joint family.

I miss home too. And realize that it’s important to be thankful for whatever you have. A maid, a clean house, clean clothes and many other little things are not your birthrights. Having lived here for a few months, I have realized that there is a language of motherhood. Whenever I come across a woman who is accompanying a baby, we look at each other and smile. Maybe to say, “yes we understand”, in spite of having nothing apart from that pint size baby in common. Smile truly is the universal language that doesn’t require a Google translate.

 

About the author:

Alokananda is a dreamer and a full time mommy who thinks human babies are not too different from her kittens.

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