Nurturing a passion

Nurturing a passion

The subtle and intricate Japanese art of bonsai has not caught on in Bangalore like ikebana.

It thrives only in the loving homes of dedicated bonsai enthusiasts.

Bonsai, the art of stunting the growth of trees and shrubs requires patience, care and undying interest.

For Sita Rao, a septuagenarian, bonsai is a passion.

Rows of miniature plants and trees line her front yard. For the past 25 years, she has been nurturing these plants in her garden. She boasts of a collection of over 18 tiny trees.

She says she has loved greenery ever since she can remember.

“I’m very fond of plants, whether its floral or foliage. I’ve always been growing something or the other.”

Her balcony has succulents, mostly cacti and aloe vera.

“I tried growing vegetables but there are too many rats in the house and they eat everything up. But we do have a papaya tree,” she adds.

How did she learn to grow bonsai?

“I learnt it on my own after reading about it somewhere in the paper. I started doing it then.”

She says it isn’t hard and all she had to do was trim the plants.

“When I look at what has to be done, I do it. I look at the beauty of the plant and that inspires me.”

All plants cannot be turned into bonsai.

“They have to have a thick stem,” says Sita. Her collection includes trees such as banyan, peepul and jade.


“Some of the trees I have are nameless. I see a sapling on the road, think it’s good and bring it back to grow. In Delhi, I lived in the Asiad village and I would pick up saplings whenever I used to go for a walk.”

She says she was curious to know their names but didn’t know how to find out. Now she is more interested in the plants than their names.

While some may think it is cruel to cripple the growth of trees, Sita says, “It’s
supposed to be that way; they are happy as they are. They have everything a big plant has. I never cut them; I only snip when there is overgrowth.”

She is slightly derisive of Lalbagh’s bonsai garden. “Their bonsai are much bigger and aren’t really bonsai. You need a thick stem and small branches.” There is no extra cost but special effort is needed for this art.

“There is a special way of watering the plants and you must limit the amount of
sunlight and manure. It’s better if flat pots are used. The result shows through the
stem and branches,” she says.

Sita is a restless wanderer who has more than one hobby.

“We (she and her husband) moved to Bangalore 18-years-ago, but before
that we lived in Delhi. We have travelled to Europe, South Asia and all over
India.”

She divides her time between her plants, embroidering, batik and bandhani printing, teaching at a special education school and her family.

She says her hands would get burnt from the dye because she would be in such
a hurry.

“I have stopped doing batik and bandhani since coming to Bangalore but I do embroidery on saris for my daughters and daughters-in-law.”

With the spirit of a teenager, this multi-talented woman continues to bustle about the house as she finds newer ways to entertain herself.

“I really like to do sudoku and such puzzles. Now I’m trying out games on my Samsung android but I worry I won’t receive messages!

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