Bonsai thoughts in a world at war

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Article Date: 
Jan 16 2013, 2125

At a time when war cry seems to have taken over the cries for justice for women, I wonder what to write. I could write against war and question its politics and futility. But in a charged up environment, it is likely to be misread. I could write about the need for a more equal society and the necessity to end the patriarchal system. I can dwell on the importance of acknowledging and understanding the violence that we perpetuate through our beliefs that primarily, and almost always, arise from extreme selfishness. And that this ‘selfish behaviour’ is not always about preserving oneself nor can it always find refuge in Darwin’s theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. It is more of a perversion of ‘seeking pleasure in the pain of another’. But, there’s already too much being written on it at the moment.
So, as I sat thinking, a friend asked me about the tiny plant in the corner of my room. It was a ‘green’ gift by my housing society. The guard brought it one evening, and took my signatures on the proof of delivery. I accepted it hesitatingly, for I wasn’t sure where it would end up if I were to reject it. I love plants, animals, birds; the entire gamut of nature. But having it in a living room or a confined space to suit my taste, does not appeal to me. Yet here is one, living with me now perforce.
The container had a tag that said ‘Bonsai’. Bonsai refers to a cultivation technique that creates diminutive plants apparently to suit ‘our’ aesthetics. These are expensive and are also considered a symbol of status, because of their relative exclusivity that comes from the cost; somewhat like a five-star hotel. Most find them are cute and handy to create a garden or a forest-like feel inside the confines of their houses, while disconnecting further with nature.
If ‘diminutive’ is cute, how about creating ‘Bonsai babies’; our very own children, who would stay diminutive throughout their lives? Imagine carrying them everywhere with so much ease, no matter how old they are. Imagine the amount of space, food and everything else we will save up on them. And they will always remain ‘cute’. While the plants are not even asked if they wish to remain curtailed in their height and looks, in case of children, the parents can give the ‘consent’ and take the onus as well. So shouldn’t everyone who has Bonsai’s in their houses and those who love gifting them around, get cracking at it and get their next child ‘cultivated’ to stay tiny.
This is the greed I had referred to earlier. Rather than questioning the structures and ideas of the society, be it of war or of violence against women, Dalits, children or anyone else or of aesthetics, we build more walls around us and then try to create our own little universe within those confines. Essentially, not only have we restricted ourselves physically through boundaries and borders, we have also tied down our thoughts which should actually be flying in each and every direction and questioning whatever goes on around us.
Why do we need house that distance us from nature? Why do we destroy nature to build a house and then try green it with Bonsais? Just one question is likely to stumble you on to many more. You may cram your religious books, you may recite your prayers backwards, but to live, all you need is to retune into nature and ask yourself ‘why we do, what we do?’ Answers may be tough, but they are the only way out, unless you really want to end up with ‘Bonsai’ children.

(The writer is a filmmaker, traveller and doctor)