In full bloom

LENDING A MAGIC TOUCH: Shyamala Ganesh.

Nature always fascinated Shyamala Ganesh. She could sit and admire the beauty of nature for hours together.

Green stalks, colourful flowers, bobbing buds, lilting leaves — they always caught her fancy. When it came to choosing her subject in college, her natural choice was botany. Her passion for the subject saw her ace in studies, enthusing her to pursue her interest in nature, further.

And the right opportunity came in the form of her four-year stay in Japan, the land of Ikebana, when her husband was there on work.

“My joy knew no bounds. On landing in Japan, my very first job was to register myself for classes in Ikebana,” remembers Shyamala. Her burning desire to work closely with nature saw her master the traditional art of Japanese flower arrangement effortlessly at the Ohara School of Ikebana in Kobe, Japan. Choosing the right flower, cut stem and leaves to arrange them in vases and containers gave her immense joy.

“I decided I should spread this joy among my people, back in India,” she recalls. The result was a school that imparted training in Ikebana in Bangalore. The therapeutic effect flower arrangements have on our bodies and souls attracted a number of students. And, with every student she taught Ikebana to, she discovered new facets of nature.

The process of discovery and rediscovery led her to start an Ikebana study group and the traditional art of flower arrangement only got more interesting by the day.

However, the intense desire to excel in her chosen field of art took Shyamala back to Japan frequently, where she learnt new techniques and bettered her art of flower arrangement. Sensing the huge popularity Ikebana enjoyed in India, and the contribution of Shyamala to the field, the Ohara School of Ikebana decided to set up a school in Bangalore with Shyamala as its founding president. “I served the school as its president till March 2011,” she says.

Organising and conducting annual exhibitions in Ikebana for the Bangalore Chapter of the Ohara School gives her immense satisfaction. “Ikebana is not just any art of flower arrangement. A lot of thought goes into each and every cut stem, leaf and flower we use in our arrangement. Through the medium of Ikebana, I hope to sensitise people to love, appreciate and preserve nature in all its beauty and splendour,” she says.

What a poet does with words, Shyamala does with flowers, leaves and stems. Assembling various elements of her art in a manner that appeals to our senses. “Art, in every form, is a face of pristine nature. It has no boundaries,” says Shyamala, who also loves to paint, listen to music and appreciate art.

Years of association with the art of Ikebana has lent her an expert eye for beauty. She can recognise the flower, the stem and the leaf that can make up a fabulous arrangement. Is sourcing the right elements for the flower arrangement a problem? “Not at all,” she says, and goes on to add, “The beauty of nature is in its variety. You just look at a stem, be it in a well-manicured garden or in the rough undergrowth in your neighbourhood, and you’ll know if it’s the one for your arrangement.”

For this diligent master of Ikebana, learning is a life-long process. Though a renowned and much sought-after Ikebana instructor in India now, Shyamala believes there’s no limit to one’s learning. As a fitting recognition of her accomplishments and dedication to the art of Ikebana, she was conferred the Grand Master’s degree recently at Kobe, Japan, making her the first person from Karnataka and the third person in India to receive this prestigious degree from Ohara School, Japan.

Recognising the fact that India and Japan have a lot many things, notably culture, in common, Shyamala strove to promote cultural ties between India and Japan by organising many music concerts and dance recitals to showcase the rich Indian culture in Japan. “I was ably supported by my husband in all my endeavours,” recalls Shyamala, who is also the director of the Japanese Language School that was started by her husband in 1984.

One of her latest initiatives has been to establish the Lotus & Chrysanthemum Trust to facilitate greater cultural interaction between Japan and India.

A lady who thinks art, dreams art, and promotes art, keeps herself busy helping her students give creative expressions a new meaning altogether. Truly a lady who appreciates beauty in all its forms.

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