They were adjacent to each other in a nursery. On one plat was bamboo saplings and the other banyan saplings. There was great demand for both, The bamboo had had a long association with Buddhism and the banyan with Hinduism. During the days the leaves were busy using their chlorophyll and they seldom had time to talk to each other. But in the cool of the nights, they were like neighbours sharing their inanities of LIFE, were talking to each other and growing together.
After a few days of neighbourly friendship, the Bamboo asked the Banyan why he was not growing fast and keeping pace with him. The Banyan sapling had 2 good reasons: firstly, my roots take up all my nutrients and my supply is RATIONED even though it is I who helps the whole plant, through my chlorophyll, for photosynthesis! The tap root which i have beneath the ground, retains the major part of my effort. Secondly, my genes are such that it has been whispered around that we, the banyan trees, take longer time to grow than grass, but grow much taller and stay much longer.
The bamboo was not happy with the superciliousness of the banyan mentioning them as “grass” in second part. However it thanked its own genes for not sucking up all the energy, its leaves were producing. Happier and at the gentle breeze, the bamboo swayed with utter seductiveness. But the banyan watched with a stiffness, true to its calling.
Days went by, the bamboo had shot up and the banyan drifted apart unable to talk as the banyan’s stature was much low. In silence and shame, the banyan was labouring day in and day out, watching the bamboo grow by leaps and bounds.
A bonsai dealer came to the nursery, and picked up the same bamboo and the banyan. He took both the plants to his farm and planted the bamboo in the front of his sprawling bungalow, as he believed that the bamboo would bring him good fortune. He took the banyan and put it in a small pot after trimming its roots. He made a bonsai out of the banyan. He wanted the banyan to become a fruit bearing tree in a pot. He loved to dwarfen and miniaturize the BANYAN. It gave him a tremendous control over the generally mammoth and sprawling banyan. The pot was put beneath the bamboo tree which had grown 5 feet tall. To make matters worse, he put a small label on the fledgling banyan with the writing FICUS BENGALENSIS, and wrote the year 1964 on it just below the botanical name.
Both were watered regularly and the bamboo had shot up beyond 30 feet in a short span of two months and despite being neighbours they could not communicate. On windy night, the bamboo swayed in the dark and saw the banyan on a small pot a little away and asked, do you remember what you said months ago, “my genes are such that it has been whispered around that we, the banyan trees, take longer time to grow than grass, but grow much taller and stay much longer!”- where is your height? and what has happened to you that you are stuck in a pot with your roots trimmed and made a spectacle of, like the blinded Samson before the jubilant Philistines?
The banyan was speechless. Silently he bore the humiliation and asked God, if he was to stay without the stature due to him, as told by his sibling plants when he was younger?
He remembered an Ezra Pound poem which refrained, ” THOU ART A BEATEN DOG BENEATH THE HAIL.” The banyan could visualize a dog, all curled up beneath the hail to shorten the area of the impact of the hail. Humiliation had seeped into his soul. Yet with no HOPE in sight and the belief in the words of his siblings dwindling, the banyan tree had reconciled to his dwarfed fate.
Years rolled by and even after 40 years he had not grown in stature, yet he had produced a lot of figs and the Bonsai dealer used to bring his guests to the farm house and show them that he had bought that banyan sapling in 1964 and that it was bearing fruit in a pot 40 years later. The banyan tree, in a bonsai form, felt truly like a blinded Samson. But the banyan tree did not have the pillars to hold on to and stir it to kill itself and others.
One day the BONSAI DEALER died.
The funeral ceremonies of the bonsai dealer was held in his farm house. One of the guests who had arrived for the funeral strayed into the bamboo garden, where under the shade of the grove was placed the BONSAI BANYAN, all forty years old. The guest was an environmental activist and when he saw that tag “FICUS BENGALENSIS- 1964”, he was furious. He took the pot, broke it and planted the banyan tree a little away from the bamboo grove, so that it could catch some sun.
Within 10 years the banyan had reached 30 feet and was standing next to the bamboo grove shoulder to shoulder. Now the long lost neighbours had regained their parity to parley on equal terms. The banyan felt vindicated and the bamboo, deep down was still smarting under the sudden good fortune the banyan had had in the hands of the Environmentalist.
In the nights they resumed their small talk as long before and the bamboo was sorry for the plight the banyan was subjected to by the Bonsai dealer. The bamboo was not finished yet with his feelings of superiority. He had had a view for the last 50 years which the banyan could never be able to recover- he thought to himself.
The banyan grew further in stature and let down those aerial roots from its branches and those were flowing like beards of a patriarch.
One night the Bamboo told the banyan, now looking up, ” What could you do with your leaves branches, aerial roots and huge branches? I could produce mellifluous music out of the bansuri made of me, I could be used for pole-vaulting by a gymnast, even in path breaking inventions like phonograph and the filament bulb I was the one to be used first by Graham Bell and Thomas Edison, But you occupy space and are useless.
The WISE banyan told the Bamboo, ” You have to DIE before you serve any of these purposes which you had mentioned just now. But I, in the Almighty’s scheme of things give shade to the passers by, allow room for the birds to build homes and nests and even the Buddha found his enlightenment under the PEACE provided by a genus of my family. And i do it all while i am still ALIVE.
“DO GOOD WHILE STILL ALIVE and DO NOT TALK BIG OF WHAT OTHERS DO WITH YOUR MORTAL WASTE. ” the Bamboo was not only chastened but enlightened too.