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When I Realised That Most Women In A Patriarchy Are Like Bonsai Trees; Stunted And Just Decorative…

Despite all the hard work, care, skill, patience and monetary value, bonsai trees were just miniature versions of what they could have been. Like women stunted by patriarchal control.

Despite all the hard work, care, skill, patience and monetary value, bonsai trees were just miniature versions of what they could have been. Like women stunted by patriarchal control.

It was a Sunday afternoon when I felt a little bored with life, but I always believed that boredom helps us to understand more about ourselves and the world around us, as it is our direct encounter purely with time. So I lean into boredom rather than onto the smartphone screen.

I slowly walked towards my kitchen balcony and was surprised to see a stunted but perfectly pruned tree grown in a small pot in my neighbor’s garden area. Yes, it was a bonsai tree; a masterpiece indeed!

The Bonsai Life by Abburi Chaya Devi

I remember that it was in my eighth standard when I first heard about this peculiar tree in a chapter titled The Bonsai Life in my English textbook.

The lesson basically was all about a conversation between two sisters. One of the sisters was illerate, living in a village and dependent on her husband even for a few paise worth curry leaves, whereas the other sister was educated, living in a town, working and leading an independent life. The town women had grown a bonsai tree at her home, about which the village women were not so happy.

Little did I understand the depth of the chapter as a child, but at the time was just amazed at the idea of growing a big tree in a small pot.

I had seen these trees a couple of times in some of the shopping malls and parks. I was always curious about them since my childhood. I wanted to know more about bonsai trees. So I quickly went to my room and googled through some of the articles and websites about the history of bonsai trees, their methods of cultivation, how to take care of them, etc. I was eager to grow one at my home too.

All that I had in my mind till then was that the bonsai trees were a re-creation of nature in the form of miniatures which can enhance the beauty of my home, and that too requiring a small space with little water. But was it so easy to grow them and take care of them? No, definitely it wasn’t an easy task.

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Bonsai challenges one’s patience, time and monetary investments besides their gardening skills and designing capabilities. Yet challenges are not to be avoided or feared, but they must be welcomed wholeheartedly. Moreover it was a new adventure for me to get rid of my boredom and I was sure that I could learn something out of it, expand my horizons, and break the monotony of my daily routine life.

But I soon realised the problem with it…

Dusk was falling rapidly, and as I watched the setting sun I yearned for a cup of coffee, as I feel that great ideas start with coffee! Later I sat down with a notepad and pen to make a list of preliminary things needed for growing a bonsai.

After a while, I heard the banging and slamming noises of windows. I quickly went to the balcony and looked outside. There was a sudden change in the weather. The wind blew harshly, the sky had turned tar-black and thick clouds had spread all over the sky. Bangalore weather was really unpredictable. Within a split second the rain poured down.

People rushed towards a big gulmohar tree at the end of the street to take shelter under its thick leafy canopy. Meanwhile, my neighbor was busy shifting the bonsai trees to a safe place away from the harsh blowing wind. All the members of family were involved in protecting those delicate trees from the heavy downpour just like a mother safeguards her child. This scene was an eye-opener for me!

Bonsai trees are stunted trees, not permitted to reach their full potential

I took a deep breath and questioned myself, whether my idea of creating a bonsai tree was a good one. At the same time I realized the reason behind the village women in The Bonsai Life chapter I mentioned above, opposing the idea of growing the bonsai trees.

The reason was simple and straightforward, yet with lots of inner meaning in it. It wasn’t a good idea to stunt and prune a tree to a cupped hand’s size when it could have grown several feet tall. It wasn’t good on my part to deprive thousands of people who could seek shadow under the tree’s canopy, the countless microorganisms and insects which could live in their roots, flocks of birds which could build their nests in the tree’s branches.

I had realized the irony of bonsai trees now. Despite all the hard work, care, skill, patience and monetary value, bonsai trees were just miniature versions of what they could have been. All good things are wild and free. The beauty of nature is reflected in fully grown wild trees, rather than the trees which are works of art valued only for their beauty. It is truly said that “When the root is deep, there is no need to worry for the wind.” Yes, the larger trees stand strong against the heavy rains and harsh winds, holding the soil tightly in their roots and thus, preventing the floods and landslides. In contrast to this, the bonsai trees are too delicate to withstand a strong wind, and in turn need to be safeguarded.

Like women controlled by a patriarchy or people who don’t grow beyond themselves

The bonsai trees make one understand about life, themselves and the people around them from a different perspective. People assess strangers initially on their outer appearance rather than on the everlasting inner beauty, strength and talent. Sometimes we feel happy and contented with the appreciation of others, and on getting monetary benefits and we start thinking too high of ourselves. But in reality we are just miniature versions of what we could have been similar to the bonsai tree.

All of us have to move out of our comfort zones, live our lives to the fullest just like the wild trees in the forest, be a symbol of strength, love, care, freedom and growth rather than the showpieces in someone’s golden cage.

Bonsai trees also indirectly symbolize the present situation of women’s empowerment in the society. There are lots of differences in the upbringing of a boy and a girl child in the society. Even today there is disparity in educating a male and a female child.

As truly said by Michelle Obama “There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish.”

A woman who is not permitted to grow as she could have, by a patriarchal society, can be compared to a bonsai as she remains intellectually miniature and suffers from self pity and insecurity throughout her life. On the other hand, an educated women can lead her life independently with respect in the society. She in turn can support her family and doesn’t need to be backed by a man.

If you educate a women, you educate a family,
If you educate a girl, you educate the future.”
-Queen Rania of Jordan.

I now had understood that the true meaning of life was to plant trees, and completely dropped the idea of growing a bonsai.

“He who plants a tree, plants a hope.”

The very next morning I woke up and the first thing I did was plant a sapling in my garden. It was high time for me to realize that if I give support to these little saplings today they were sure to support me later, as well as society at large. Every single tree matters, and it is our responsibility to save them.

Image source: corradodalco from Getty Images Free for Canva Pro and book cover Amazon

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About the Author

Dr. Shubha. H.V

I am a consultant pathologist at SRL diagnostics, Fortis hospital, Rajajinagar, Bangalore. read more...

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