Friday, October 30, 2009

The Bonsai Story

The bonsai metaphor is my favourite. Whenever I get an occasion to talk about the conditioning of human minds, I seize upon the bonsai image. I wouldn’t be surprised if my students call me ‘Bonsai Miss’, ‘cos I’m sure I have bored them to death drawing parallels between the stunting of the plants and the stunting of human minds by social structures. The first time, they listen to it with some interest, as tho I’ve hit upon an original metaphor. But as bonsai keeps popping up in my lectures, I suspect I see sidelong glances being exchanged. But I can’t resist the temptation to drag in the inhuman (or in-nonhuman?) practice of the bonsai techniques whenever I give vent to a fiery harangue on the extent to which Homo sapiens go to manipulate /condition everything including the human thought process in order to suit its schema.

If ever they institute a Nobel Prize for endurance, I’d recommend my poor students. How they have suffered me. Not that I didn’t know it, but once one gets a bee in the bonnet, it’s difficult to get it out.

I even wrote a pathetic (in the original and diluted sense of the word), poem on Bonsai, mourning the tragic predicament of a tree that might have grown full straight, into perhaps a tree that might have given shelter to a modern day Buddha who would have had a nirvanic experience that’d have saved the world from its headlong plunge into disaster; or into a gigantic pala tree, giving shelter to some spirit walking the earth for a chance to execute the revenge drama; or into a tree which would have had the rarest of rare privilege of becoming the husband of the manglik Aiswarya Rai; or into a magnificent tree which could have witnessed a Prithiviraj or a Navya Nair collapse with a hip dislocation while performing one of those gymnastic exercise that passes off for dance.

The poem looked downright stupid that I deleted it, even from the recycle bin, lest I post it on my blog in a weak moment of self love.

To come back to the Bonsai – two years back, when I visited my friend Sally after a long time, I found she had a fantastic collection of Bonsai. Despite myself, I couldn’t help being delighted by the sheer beauty of those stunted trees. Even the most commonplace tree that we wouldn’t take another look at looked lovely. I began to wonder if I could be wrong about my anti-bonsai stand. Seeing me lost in admiration of her plants, my good friend gifted me with a bonsai.

“It’s a phycus – a hardy type. Once you master the art of growing Bonsai, you can try with better plants.’

I didn’t have the heart to decline the offer as a matter of principle. In fact I was excited by the thought of having a collection of bonsai with her help that I forgot all about its potential to grow into nirvanic canopy or a manglik groom.

Now starts my story. I looked after it as though it were a precious baby. Gave it food, water in measured quantities as Sally had instructed. When the time came for pruning, I called Sally over who did it like an expert giving a lec-dem.

Three months after I got it, my bonsai died. The leaves just fell off as though fall had come to the tropical Kerala, and the small tree stood bare, mocking at me.

“Just water it. The leaves will come back. No reason why they shouldn’t”

I waited for a month, watering my Bonsai every day, looking carefully for signs of life.

But it had died for good.

Seeing my distress, Sally gave me another. History repeated itself.

Sally gave me another and another and another.

My fifth bonsai too died.

I’ve begun to think that these plants have extra sensory perception. Mebbe they got those negative vibes from me, and decided to return the compliment. Oh! They are vengeful.

No wonder their destiny to facilitate a Buddha or be a husband to the Miss World was sabotaged.

Serves them right.

No more bonsais for me. No more growing them, I mean. But the metaphor continues to lace my conversation with a dash of virulence.


  1. why is it that teachers have the habit of drawing parallels from nature..;-) my mom and aunt always does so..;-P

  2. @ mathew
    mother nature. the archetype - -

  3. I love the analogy of the bonsai to human nature. What lucky students you have! I too possess the gift to kill anything in sight with chloroplasts. Fun post.


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