Lord of the Little Things: Growing One Bonsai at a Time | News from Meerut
The term bonsai suggests growing trained trees in small containers. For this group of doctors, teachers and housewives, it’s about patiently and dedicatedly cultivating miniature wonders in their own backyards. This includes jade, ficus, jamun, candle tree and others. Bonsai cultivation has become an inseparable part of their life for them.
Dr Shanti Swarup, practicing surgeon and certified bonsai artist who is the mastermind behind the group, said, “Bonsai is a living art that requires a lifelong commitment. The artist is nothing less than a monk in constant prayer. The culture has its roots in China where people began to erect trees 2,000 years ago. Called Penjing, these miniature trees were made as a souvenir. Later the art traveled to Japan where it was refined and became known as bonsai.
A resident of Meerut, Swarup founded the group, known as the Vanulee Study Group, several years ago and gives free bonsai lessons to around 20 students. The group meets once a month. He said, “The first thing I teach my students is patience. The hobby requires the utmost attention at every step. Since we shape trees in small containers compared to their counterparts, they require special handling. “The process begins with transplanting a small plant into shallow trays providing it with a specially designed soil mix. Then begins the bending and pruning of the branches using ancient tools and techniques. The most crucial part is wrapping the wires around the branches to reposition them. Care must be taken not to let the wires dig into the branches as this will leave marks. They must be removed in good time. Wiring is to a bonsai artist what a brush is to a painter. The whole process takes years. The ultimate goal is to shape the tree into its most natural yet miniature form,” he added.
Swarup has nearly 200 bonsai trees in his Defense Colony home and devotes 2-3 hours a day to maintaining them.
One of his students, Deepti Agarwal, who joined his study group about eight years ago, said: “There was a big neglected lawn here and as a housewife I started to interested in its development. It was then that I met Dr. Swarup who encouraged me to pursue art. Her meticulous way of teaching helped me learn quickly. I have 50 plants in my house now.
Another student, Supriya Sondhi, 58, said: “I joined it ten years ago. Although he is strict, he is also the best teacher. Today, I have a hundred Bonsai that adorn my house.
Revealing the origin of his passion, Swarup recalls: “It all started in the mid-80s when I was pursuing post-graduate studies in surgery at Jhansi Medical College. I heard about this new concept of raising trees on shallow plateaus. I managed to buy a book from an old bookstore for Rs 60 and it became my Bonsai Bible. Since then, I’ve been constantly learning the art, developing it, and even helping others master it.
He summarizes: “It’s like a micro-surgery at home but the duration is long, very long.”