Introduction

This is the second part of Bonsai Life by Abburi Chayadevi. It was translated from its original Telegu version (Bonsai Bratukulu) by Alladi Uma and M. Sridhar. This chapter continues the story of two sisters with two different standings in life, using their conversation to focus on the issue of women’s education.

Characters

The narrator (Annayya)– an educated working woman

Akkayya– the narrator’s older sister

Nannagaru– their father

Amma– their mother

The Narrator’s Bonsai Plants

The narrator says that from the very start Akkayya had been keen on studying. But Nannagaru didn’t educate her. Because she was not good at oral arithmetic, Nannagaru had made her discontinue her lessons, concentrating only on Annayya or the narrator’s education. 

Because Akkayya was uneducated, she got married to a man from a village and had to do all household chores. Their Amma used to be very upset at this. Realizing that Akkayya was upset thinking of the past, the narrator took her to the balcony.

Looking at the plants in the flowerpots, Akkayya mentioned that all the vegetables she had brought were from her own backyard. Akkayya asked the narrator why she had planted turayi and pomegranate trees in flowerpots, making them stunted. She was confused.

The narrator laughed. She said it was a special method, called bonsai in Japan, that let people grow even a huge banyan tree in a flowerpot. She said she had to carefully tend the small trees and that bonsai was a great art. Akkayya didn’t appreciate it and sighed that she had confined a turayi tree to a flowerpot when it could have grown to the height of a building.

The Storm and Akkayya’s Views

Feeling disheartened at being unable to impress Akkayya with her bonsai, the narrator collapsed weakly into a chair. Suddenly a dust storm began. She dragged Akkayya into the room and closed the doors and windows. Akkayya was stunned and asked what had just happened. The narrator replied that storms often brought sand from the Rajasthan desert.

Suddenly, it began to rain too. The narrator opened the door and pulled the bonsai tree pots and flowerpots inside, under the canopy. Akkayya opened a side window and looked at the streets of Delhi. She enthusiastically called out to her sister to look at something. She pointed at a huge turayi tree under which a lot of people had taken shelter from the storm.

Then she told her narrator to look at the bonsai she had tended so lovingly. It looked proper and sweet, like a housewife, but it was too delicate. It couldn’t even withstand a small dust storm. Because it was dependent on someone, it couldn’t provide shelter to anyone. Akkayya said that it was like the difference in the way one brought up a boy and a girl, and that a woman’s life was like that of a bonsai.

The narrator’s heart was touched by Akkayya’s words. Just as one frees a bird from a cage to let it fly, she felt the urge to free the bonsai trees from their flower pots.

Conclusion

The metaphor of the bonsai plants shows us how restricting girls and depriving them of an education makes them weak. Leading sheltered lives, they are unable to withstand difficulties, just like the narrator’s bonsai trees. Therefore, girls must be raised in the same way as boys are so they can become strong independent women.