|

Paul and Neeta Daswani

by Judit Kawaguchi

Paul (61) and Neeta (60) Daswani are the owners of Sati’s, a legendary clothing store in Okinawa City in the center of Okinawa Island. Since 1978, Sati’s has been a one-stop shopping haven for hot tailor-made suits with cool matching accessories. Here beach bums turn into jazz cats thanks to the Daswanis’ trademark bespoke Zoot Suit: a long jacket with heavy padded shoulders over wide, pegged, high-waisted trousers, the kind of outfit that cartoon detective Dick Tracy chased skirts and criminals in. Sati’s mind-boggling array of accessories includes two-tone shoes and bowler hats in every color of the rainbow, and enough bling to make a rapper out of anyone. In a city famous for its music scene, customers sing the Daswanis’ praises for making suits that do all the talking.

Paul: When we dress people up, we think of them as walking advertisements. We want them to look impeccable and spiffy. We check their posture and adjust the cut so it fits perfectly. For example, if their right shoulder is lower, we add more padding there for good balance. Import clothes and off-the-rack suits are fine, but every Tom, Dick and Harry or Jane wears them, so why would you, too?

Neeta: When people come into our store, we don’t care about their looks, but how they speak. We can always improve their outfits, but behavior is more difficult to fix.

P: Our customers are like friends. Most become regulars and bring their kids and relatives to us. That makes our day.

N: In India, we say that if you want to know the husband, you should go see his wife. How she talks and treats others is a reflection on her family, especially her husband.

P: Respect your parents more than gods. If you start every day with respect for the elderly, then it is for sure that we will have a better society everywhere. Indian TV shows and movies teach that idea, so everyone should watch them.

N: When you are kind to others, they will be good to you in return. Japanese are the kindest people in the world, and Japan is the best place to live. It’s peaceful and wonderful. We may travel, but this is our home forever.

P: Indians see the Japanese Dream, but Japanese don’t seem to. Japanese don’t know how lucky they are to live in such a great country. In elementary school and middle school, I worked after classes and dreamed about moving to Japan. I didn’t graduate from high school. I had no money when I came to Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture in 1965 to work in a garment factory. I made $25 a month, which was good money back then. I sent it all home. I worked from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and never complained. Why should I? Everyone worked hard. They were good to me, gave me free food, free clothing, room and board. I stayed for four years and got a raise every six months. Japanese don’t want to do better, because they already have it so good. Kids live with their parents, so they do not save any money — they work, then blow what they make, not worrying about the future. Indians always worry about it and always want to improve their situation.

N: Limit your desires. Otherwise you’ll die going after your dream of money, money, money. It’s just a rat race then. Think of your health. Kids need a good education, but besides that, one doesn’t need so much money.

P: Our parents gave us the gift of life, so we must do as they tell us for as long as they are alive. When my mother saw Neeta, she liked her, so I married her. I never questioned my mother’s judgment. N: Trust your mother and father. I also felt sure that my family picked the right person for me, and they did. We’re very lucky together. We did have a little mother-in-law problem, but all families do everywhere. We lived with Paul’s mother, Sati, from the time of our wedding in 1974 until her death in ’85. In many ways it was good. As a grandma, she was great! She only had problems with me sometimes. Paul was always in the middle! P: When you’re in the middle of an argument, stay there! Take no sides! It was easy for me. When my mother complained, I just laughed and said, “You picked her!” To my wife I said, “I love you. I also love my mom. I can’t separate from either of you, so you two must compromise.” And they did.

P: Old people have no place to go, so we must make a comfortable spot for them in our homes and businesses. I put a big sofa in the shop and my mom used to sit there all day. When the phone rang, or the mailman came in, they kept saying the name of the shop, “Sati’s,” so she heard her name dozens of times a day and, every time, she felt so happy. It’s like they were saying hello to her. N: God will give us what’s our share, what we deserve. That’s what we Hindus believe. Sati brought us so much luck — she blessed our family and business.

P: The silent majority needs to speak up and make some noise. In Okinawa — especially in our city, where many Americans live — everyone loves the U.S. military. Americans are fun and spend money, so Okinawans have it really easy. N: Those who complain about the U.S. military live in Okinawa’s capital, Naha City, and have nothing to do with Americans. Yet because of these few, the security of Japan is threatened and the economy of Okinawa is going down.

P: If you’re successful, you can be happy anywhere. But it’s just so much easier to feel good in Japan. We never feel homesick — we’re at home here. We both want to get Japanese citizenship but we can’t read and write kanji very well, so we have been refused.

N: We can’t have everything. Maybe we’ll get it in our next life. Then we’ll have even more to look forward to!

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Out & About.” Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/