Perfectly Imperfect : Bonus Winner | Season 5

– Seshadri Sreenivasan

My job demanded frequent international travel, which was a mix of exhaustion and excitement. It offered chances to forge connections and engage in remarkable business ventures, with all expenses covered by the company. So, when the chairman requested I journey to Japan for steel collaborations, I eagerly accepted, marking my first visit to the ‘Land of the Rising Sun.’ With prior exposure to Japanese culture, I anticipated an authentic experience. After an 8.5-hour flight from Mumbai to Tokyo, the plane descended.
Morning light streamed in as classical music played softly in the background. The aircraft touched down gracefully. The airport’s design was sleek and bright, with streams of people flowing effortlessly. Picking up my Japanese counterpart here was a breeze.” Fujita Tanaka, a senior manager at the Japanese company, greeted me at the exit gate with a warm smile. In Japanese tradition, he bowed and said, “Hajimemashite” (nice to meet you), followed by a welcoming “Welcome to Tokyo.” Tanaka explained that he had arranged a taxi due to parking issues and suggested I take a short break before our afternoon meeting with senior executives. After successful sessions, I extended invitations to visit Mumbai, and Tanaka invited me to his home for dinner with his wife, preparing a particular Indian dish. Delighted, I accepted. Our farewells included bows, reflecting the cultural respect in Japan.

Tanaka picked me up from the hotel. His wife welcomed us at the entrance with a deep bow. I returned the bow and greeted her warmly in English, expressing my gratitude for the invitation and her effort in preparing an Indian dinner. I removed my shoes and entered the elegant drawing room, presenting the lady with a flower bouquet and Tanaka with a bottle of wine, following the Japanese “omiyage” gift-giving culture. While Tanaka went to fetch some Japanese sake, I noticed a large photo of the Tanaka family with a handsome teenager adorning the centre of the wall unit.
“That’s our son, Toshiro. He lived on the university campus, studying philosophy and ancient Japanese culture.” Tanaka remarked with a tinge of sorrow, “He was a brilliant young man.” Concealing sadness proves difficult; Tanaka’s grief was palpable through his drooping eyelids, downcast gaze, downturned lips, and furrowed brows. “He’s no longer with us,” he said softly. “We lost him last year to the dreaded COVID-19.”


Suddenly, a sombre atmosphere filled the room, and I approached him, placing my hand on his shoulder, and said, “I’m deeply sorry to hear that.” Words felt inadequate to express my sympathy. While still gazing at the charming family photograph, my attention shifted to a nearby porcelain vase adorned with delicate golden lines that crisscrossed its every inch. It appeared to be “repaired,” yet its uniqueness shone through. The beautiful seams of gold sparkled within the conspicuous cracks in the ceramic. I could not help but become fixated on it because of its strange beauty. I turned to face Tanaka. “What seems to have piqued your curiosity in a broken vase, my friend?” Tanaka motioned for me to join him for a drink as his wife set the table.

“Let’s have a couple of shots of the Japanese wonder drink ‘Sake’ before my wife arrives,” he winked. Tanaka smiled, lifting his cup in a silent “cheers” before sipping the sake.

Tanaka gestured towards the vase and explained, “This craft is called Kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending damaged pottery using lacquer coated with gold, silver, or platinum powder.

“Yes, I can understand that,” I replied.”But why undertake such intricate processes when you could simply replace it with a new one?”
“Embracing defects and imperfections is the foundation of Japanese art, which aims to create even stronger and more beautiful works. In many cases, Kintsugi makes the restored object even more beautiful than the original, breathing new life into it by accentuating its fractures and cracks rather than concealing them.”
I was rendered speechless. Tanaka’s words slowly began to resonate with me. His wife, Honoka, joined us at the table and spoke to me in Japanese, while Tanaka interpreted it simultaneously in English.
“Kintsugi is a practice dating back to the 15th century, and it translates to ‘to join with gold.’ It serves as a reminder to embrace life’s imperfections and cultivate optimism even when faced with adversity. It extends the Japanese philosophy of Sabi, which finds value in simplicity and beauty in the unfinished.”
Tanaka’s gaze turned distant. “We all aspire to attain the perfect relationship, a fulfilling career, a happy family, and the respect of others someday. However, life has a way of dealing us numerous blows, leaving us with the shattered fragments of our dreams.”
Tanaka paused briefly and inquired, “Have you experienced such moments in life?”
I nodded in quiet agreement.
“Numerous,” I started, “the peaks and valleys, the instances of delight and those of despair—a series of occurrences, occasionally brimming with joy and at other times burdened by sorrow. That, in my view, captures the core of life.”
“How did you manage when life presented unexpected challenges?”
“I felt broken.”
“That’s precisely it,” Tanaka said, eyes locked onto mine. “You’re not alone. You’re not unique. Every human being faces difficult times. In those moments of despair, Zen masters introduced the philosophy of Kintsugi, meaning ‘to join with gold.’ It acts as a prompt to maintain your optimism. When everything seems to be falling apart, celebrate the imperfections and missteps of life. It’s not just about repairing ceramics.” Tanaka smiled.
The following day, Tanaka dropped me off at the airport and handed me a small package. “It’s from my wife, a token of our goodwill,” he said softly. I profusely thanked him for his assistance and friendship. We exchanged bows and a heartfelt hug. Leaving Tokyo, I felt a deep sense of contentment, pondering the profound wisdom of Kintsugi.

“Hello there! You seem to be lost in some thoughts. How was your trip to Japan?” My wife, Lakshmi’s sing-song voice, brought me back to the sounds and smells of Mumbai. She handed me a steel tumbler filled with steaming South Indian filter coffee, a gesture I gratefully accepted. The intense and aromatic coffee was topped with a classic frothy layer that beckoned me to savour its warmth.
“Is there something bothering you?” Her voice held a tinge of impatience.
“Kintsugi,” I said softly, sipping the life-giving filter coffee.
“What? Who is she?” Suddenly, Lakshmi’s voice took on a note of suspicion.
“Kintsugi, for God’s sake,” I repeated, raising my voice slightly. “Kintsugi isn’t a woman. Now, be still and listen to my story.”
She settled beside me on the sofa, turning to face me with an air of curiosity, as if the intensity of my voice had piqued her interest. I recounted my visit to Tanaka’s home and my enlightening conversations with the Tanakas about Kintsugi.
“Please open my suitcase and look at the lovely vase they gifted us as a token of friendship.”
Lakshmi gave me a strange look and went into the bedroom, leaving me alone with my coffee. I finished my coffee with relish, went into my bedroom, and stood still at the doorway. Lakshmi had her back to me, but she must have sensed my presence. Without facing me, she remarked, “Oh dear, it’s broken. I didn’t do it.”
I released a deep sigh and attempted to comfort her. “Don’t fret. Stay calm. I hastily packed it in my airport suitcase—it’s my fault. Life sometimes unfolds differently than we anticipate, and in those moments, you know how to adapt and deal with it.” We locked eyes for a brief moment and simultaneously exclaimed,


As Lakshmi and I stared at the fractured vase in our hands and the golden lines of Kintsugi glinting in the sunlight filtering through our window, a profound understanding washed over us. The broken vase symbolised resilience and transformation, a reminder that beauty can be found in our imperfections, even in adversity. In life, we all encounter moments when we feel broken when circumstances seem to shatter our dreams and expectations. But Kintsugi teaches us that these moments are not the end; they are opportunities for growth and renewal.
With gentle hands, we carefully placed the vase on the shelf, its golden scars now proudly on display. It had transformed from mere pottery into a symbol of human resilience.
In the quiet moments of our lives, we often thought of Tanaka and his family, grateful for their extended friendship and the profound lesson they had imparted. Kintsugi was no longer just an art form; it was a philosophy that had enriched our lives.
And so, amid the bustling city of Mumbai, amidst the chaos and imperfections of daily existence, we found a sense of serenity—a reminder that, like the broken vase, we too could be joined with gold, our scars becoming part of our unique and beautiful story.


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