In 2015, the visionary Kunna Dash was appointed as the International Tourism Ambassador of Kyoto, Japan, who has been relentlessly working for his endeavors.
He has been honored with various awards. In 2007, the Japanese government honored Kunna Dash with a Certificate of Appreciation. In 2009, Kansai Television conferred the Ningen-Kokuho Award on him. He was also awarded in 2012 during the 60th anniversary of India-Japan Diplomatic ties, and in 2015, he was awarded Naniwa Prize from Osaka city.
Interview times had a great conversation with him, where he shared his vision, experience, and an incredible mission to unite Japan and India’s culture using to educate the youths of either country. Let’s dive into our interview with Kunna Dash.
I want students to learn multiple languages, not merely one or two. We, Indians, need to work on making students sincere, systematic, and punctual.
Can you tell our readers in brief about yourself?
I belong to Puri, Odisha. My father, a brahmin known for only being a priest, had established a hotel named Santana Hotel in 1952. We were not well-off at that time. I am the eldest one among all the siblings. My father thought of opening a guest house in Puri. Only Bengali people from west Bengal used to visit initially, and gradually foreign tourists started stepping in. The curious thing was the notebook, which was kept at the Hotel’s reception for the visitors to write about their visiting experiences in India. This book became popular among all foreigners. Then, one day, 2-3 Japanese dropped by to the Hotel, and they taught me their language. Just when I learned the language, people became familiar with the fact that a person who knows the Japnese language in Puri and the tourists from Japan started coming in great numbers. Then, an idea dawned upon me of getting settled in Japan with the mission of making ties between India and Japan.
What are your duties and responsibilities as the International Tourism Ambassador of Kyoto, Japan?
I am a fluent speaker of the Japanese language, so they entitled me to a significant position to foster culture, tourism, education, and delving at signing treaties on trade & commerce to make each other rich and prosperous. Overall, I aim to deepen the friendship ties between both the countries and ensure Indians lead a dignified life in Japan.
In 2014, the Prime Minister visited Kyoto. Later, the Japanese government helped us establish the first-ever CBSE English medium sister school of Chandra Sekhar Academy in the Kansai region, Western Japan. It results in the exchange and sharing of culture between both countries to help out the children of Indian as well as its peripheral countries to avail international English curricula at an affordable price. We also keep Odia a subject, especially for the children of Odishan ex-pats, including yoga & regular prayer classes.
Can you tell our readers about the Chandra Sekhar Academy? How is it different from other schools in India?
Chandra Sekhar Academy, named after my father’s name, the only school from L.KG to 12th standard in Puri, fulfills the motive of making students learn and adapt to Odisha’s diverse cultures, Japan and multiple languages such as Oriya, English, and Hindi.
There is no denying the fact that India and Japan have various similarities like religion and government. But If you look at their schooling etiquette and mannerisms, you will realize they do not have the same morning assembly traditions in schools. Still, they have a norm to hold a meeting where people collectively gather and decide to set agenda to make their day better. They are peculiar for maintaining cleanliness, and even students are who comes and cleans their classes every day, not ”aunties.”
Moreover, the Japanese are popular for their punctuality; they value teamwork and are not mere procrastinators like Indians. Therefore, we aimed to want to inculcate such habits in our students.
Apart from CBSE school, I have also opened a Japanese language center and an IT center in the school premises to prepare students for workplace demand, especially in the Japanese companies in India & Japan. Every year scores of Japanese volunteers and interns from different universities of Japan come here to have in-depth research on Indian culture, yoga & Ayurveda, etc. Some interns research on Indo-Japan pilgrimage, including comparative studies on Jagannath cult & Buddhism.
How has Covid affected your mission?
Like everyone, we, too, have been adversely affected by the Covid. Most of our children belong to rural areas, & irregular network coverage is proving to be challenging for our administration to communicate the regular classes with them.
Our school fees, too, are almost half of what the others have been charging. Due to worsening conditions, some parents cannot pay our fees; not we are forcing anyone. Still, yes we are looking for an ally who can actively help us coordinate with our system and mission. If I could match my vibes with someone sharing the same mentality, I would love to partner with them.
Covid has been challenging for us, but our administration is trying hard to cope with it by having online classes, tests, etc.
You have been doing a tremendous job for three decades. What is your ultimate mission?
I have formed excellent connections with japan in my journey of 30 years. I also want our children to go there and learn new and advanced technology and earn better. I want them to know and make in Japan, and then they should come here and invest in India’s future. I want them to learn multiple languages, not merely one or two. We, Indians, need to work on making students sincere, systematic life, and punctuality.
I believe today’s generation has forgotten the golden morals or Sanskriti of India; they are trying to imitate the western culture, consequently failing in both. Beyond an iota of doubt, we have rich culture and traditions, but we have forgotten all. We need to respect every country’s culture and tie-up projects with them; it has a vast scope. Though the horrors of pandemic hit us, there have been positive effects of it.
INTERVIEWED BY TUSHANT BARANWAL & YOGITA MALHOTRA