The Beauty of Bonsai


Miguel Braganza

It was Dussehra last week and in two days we celebrate the ‘Karva Chauth’ followed by Diwali a week later. We celebrate quite naturally and remain connected with Mother Nature. October is also marked as the month of Mother Mary, after celebrating her nativity with offerings of flowers in September. The Vata Poornima or Vaddachi Punov in June is the Konkan’s version of the Karva Chauth. There is a greater parallel between these Indian celebrations and the Japanese art of making a bonsai than one would normally care to notice.

It is normally the destiny of the woman to be uprooted from her home and to be transplanted into a new environment and a new regimen of the marital home. She has to fit into the new role and new standard operating practices or SOP. It is no more the carefree life of one’s maiden home. Like most things in modern life, ‘terms and conditions apply’. In the art of bonsai, too, the primary rule is that the trunk should constantly taper from the base to the tip, with nary a bump between the two extremes. There must be a branch on the left to match the branch on the right and there must be a third branch growing backward. The main trunk must be visible from the front and, so, there must be no branch growing forward to blur that view.

We also have the practice of the ‘ghor zanvuim’ or ‘ghar-jamaie’, where the husband has to move into the home of his wife and her maiden surname is added to his in the names of their children. Even the Portuguese law provides for the ‘genro establicido’ where a family has no male heir. The feelings of a grown-up man made to conform to rules of his wife’s home were best expressed by one such beneficiary of the largesse, “My wife will not allow me to live happily, nor to die in peace. At every Karva Chauth, she fasts and prays that I may outlive her.” Many persons believe that the bonsai plants must feel the same. The practitioner will prune it regularly and ensure that it does not die before him or her, as the case may be.

The Ficus species (banyan, peepul, roomad, etc) of trees are difficult to kill. They are survivors even when subjected to severe pruning and deprivation of water and nutrients. They make fantastic brides or ghor zanvuim for the bonsai practitioner. The little-leafed Ficus benjamina, which comes in standard green as well as gold and white variegated versions, is a favourite. There is one Ficus krishnae, named after the ‘makkan-chor’ Devki Krishna because its leaf tip is folded to look like a ladle used to serve the desi ghee and local butter or makkan. The best bonsai of this is possibly the one created and owned by Sarita Zantye in Panaji.

Bonsai as an art was popularised in Goa by Daniel D’Souza and the now deceased Sudhanshu Saigal, who gave up his medical practice on the death of his mother and found solace in this art that some people find disturbing to their peace of mind. To each, his own. Oscar Silveira now provides an opportunity to those living south of the Zuari river. Bonsai will be on display at the Plant Utsav that is being revived this November after a gap of seven years.