JOYS OF PLANT UTSAV

Glimpses of BSG’s Plant Utsav, 2019, at Jardin Garcia de Orta: That’s horticulturist and bonsai master Daniel D’souza doing a demo of flower arrangement (insets) the finished arrangement, alongside is a casuarina bonsai exhibit; a senior citizen takes a closer look at an ambade plant at a nursery collection, and nearby Jennifer Lewis Kamat chatting with Caje Almeida; elsewhere visitors taking a look at prizewinning maiden’s hair fern and (below) a tantalizing tableau of plants strung up at Shree Agriculture Nursery stall….and, ‘I am a fat green pod and very nutritious to eat! Say hello to me!” (in children’s competition for dressing up as flower, fruit or flower).

by tara narayan

FEW things I love to do more than to time pass in gardens or plant shows to de-stress! So naturally I wait for any of the Botanical Society of Goa’s plant shows. I’m come to the conclusion that the historical Jardin de Garcia de Orta in Panaji is the perfect place to have plant shows in town and really there should be an organic market here too every weekend mornings or evenings…and plants for sale, classes teaching you how to grow your own kitchen garden, garden items for sale, etc. The Jardin de Garcia de Orta is a historical garden.
It is here that the Botanical Society of Goa had its annual show-cum-competitions this year from November 15 to 17, 2019. I went on all three days to fill my eyes with the wonder of plants at the various nursery stalls and even bought myself a potted jade plant, for some reasons I think jade plant will bring me luck! The Chinese in Malaysia think jade is a luck-bringer, more so the stone jade from Burma and China.
This time the Plant Utsav had a veritable line-up of BSG chairperson Daniel d’souza’s bonsai collection. It was a treat to look at all the miniature trees especially the floral ones and the venerated banyan with its aged wood, bonsai trees can look incredibly ancient and some of them are indeed 20, 30, 40 and plus, plus years old. It’s no wonder the Japanese have a thing for the painstaking art of creating bonsai and some rich and beautiful I know have veritable bonsai gardens on display in their grand homes…though I must find out who has the largest collection.
Ha, ha, Daniel of course although I haven’t been to his home. He is the pioneer in Goa for creating awareness of the ancient art of bonsai and has had some major exhibition sales, if you want to buy a bonsai go look at his collection – he won’t part with some of them for money or love, but he conducts classes and I’m sure learning the art of creating miniature plants or trees can teach one all the lessons of patience one may wish to learn. I often asked Daniel if reducing trees into miniatures is not a cruel art form and he said not at all, he loves all his bonsai creations and showers lots of love on them!
A hands-on person in one of the sessions at this year’s BSI’s Plant Utsav he demonstrated how to do a classical floral arrangement and it was an experience. There is a lot to balancing in doing a floral or flower arrangement to grace your living room! While working on turning out an elegant flower arrangement around a piece of driftwood (a dark beauty all in itself), red and white carnations, red orchids and large leafs…he shared valuable basics, hints, secrets. It was an enthralling lesson, thank-you.
Of the competitions I particularly loved the children dressing up vegetables or fruit. I’d have given a prize to the boy who flaunted himself as a bursting green pea pod! Well, there was lots to take pleasure in and I chatted with Angela who had eco-friendly household cleaning products, my favorite nursery owner Cage Almeida all the way from down south Goa Raia – buy soursop and ambade plants from him!
A lot of garden lovers are acquiring a passion for begonia of which there’re several varieties, begonia leaves are veritable showpieces or live paintings – quite a collection of begonia collection this time to beguile the eyes, I’m thinking of one exquisite curly-leafed begonia with its dark under leaf magenta coloring turning upwards here and there…like a flouncing skirt, very pretty. Meghnath Kerekar’s Shree Agriculture Nursery from where I bought my jade plant really had the most desirable collection of nursery plants for sale….expensive too, I don’t know why I had to shell out Rs200 for my jade! Everyone was crowding up here to see the African violets, roses and cacti and succulant beauties.

In IFFI 2019 bouquet of films: A moving finale scene from ‘Marghe and Her Mother’ and (inset) South Korean film ‘Parasite’ which left one wondering who the parasites of society are, rich or poor!

FILMS OF GOLDEN JUBILEE IFFI

WHAT would I do without a film or two to lift my soul! Films are an addiction, positive addiction when not taken to extremes I recommend this addiction. I must confess I didn’t catch too many films this time at the 50th International Film Festival this year but now it is over feel a sudden vacuum in my life and I’m wondering where I should go once in a way to see a film or two of old or new times.
Films educate, entertain, offer food for thought, and mirror the best and worst of the society we live in as it evolves for better or worse…at the moment it is very definitely worse or is it? After the recent Hindi cinema blockbuster money-spinning ‘Kabir Singh’ many think filmmakers shouldn’t make films glorifying male machismo and heroism, but I’m against sanitizing of moral values. Good, bad or ugly, I think it’s useless taking high moral ground be it books, films, art or anything else which reflects or mirrors our realities on earth as a people. Even if as a civilization we’re going bonkers, I need to know! It’s the fact that so many viewers enjoyed ‘Kabir Singh’ which sounds eerie to me, I saw the film but it left me annoyed at the manner in which this guy thinks women are his toys to do whatever he wishes in love or in hate.
The IFFI bouquet of films from around the world offer a grand choice, if only one chooses well. Of the 16 or 17 films I saw I can’t say I chose well because I didn’t do much homework this time because my mind was too distracted, my dears. Two films however continue to haunt me, namely ‘Parasites’ and concluding film ‘Marghe and Her Mother.’ After them come ‘System Crasher’, ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘My Name is Sarah’ and all-time great Alfred Hitchcock-directed black and white 1929 film ‘Blackmail’ which even today can transform you into yearning for more silence as against the cacophony of words, loud, noisy, too many words being bombarded all around us.
‘Blackmail’ is an evergreen treat of a film from the early silent era of cinema and although it comes along with music (live music in this case at the Kala Academy) I think I could see it in pure silence, the silence is evocative and profound.
The opening film ‘Despite the Fog’ is the much-respected Serbo-French filmmaker Goran Paskaljevic’s latest film, about migrant children in European countries seeking welcome, home, love – most children are from Muslim majority countries (in a state of civil war with the people paying the price) who’ve somehow survived while escaping to safer countries. Many die, many survive as did 8-year-old Mohammed. He was picked up at a bus-stop in a small Italian town by hotelier Paolo. He takes the boy whose only favorite English word is “Okay” to all queries to his wife Valeria – she thinks her own dead son has been returned to her by God’s grace!
Instead of turning in the migrant boy to the police they offer Mohammed a home, are kind to him, try to convert him into a model Christian boy attired in their dead son’s clothes and shoes! Mohammed rebels, rejects the notion…and in an interesting turn to the story Valeria decides to run away from home and husband to take the boy to Sweden where he imagines his parents are (nobody can convince the boy his parents died in the boat in which migrants were escaping their own tyrannical countries).
‘Despite the Fog’ is a very sensitively directed film focusing on something like 10,000 migrant children going missing in Italy annually. What happens to them? Who adopts them in love – or resentment and hate?
SOMETIMES I feel like that girl Benni in ‘System Crasher’ (German film directed by Nora Fingscheidt)! Her only solution to rejection is to be violent. Of course nobody understands her, when her distraught mother hands her over to the State and the girl goes from foster care to special school, she gives everyone hell – until she finds a kindred soul in a male coach who introduces her to a camping trip when life is uncomfortable but surprisingly adventurous. ‘System Crasher’ is keen comment on young mothers unable to cope with life, when men in their life won’t commit to a relationship – but have no problems leaving them to fend for themselves, and their children. As far as I can see the institution of marriage is as dead as the dodo for a lot of young folk today, better they don’t make babies.
The film of IFFI this year must surely be the South Korean film ‘Parasites’ (a Boon Joon Ho film, winner of Palme D’Or at Cannes 2019). It’s a hilarious yet serious film exposing rich-poor exploitations, vulnerabilities, differing philosophies of rich who can be so stupidly rich, and poor who can also bed so stupidly, desperately poor…can’t make up one’s mind whether to sympathize with the rich or the poor! The film is too much and I wouldn’t like to see it again but it’s a Korean potboiler exquisitely detailed to see, for the story echoes painfully all around us be it India or South Korea.
But my favorite unforgettable film of IFFI at this year’s IFFI is the starkly grim, poignant concluding film ‘Marghe and Her Mother’ (by the famous Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmal). The film is his Italian debut, beautifully set in small-town Italy where the young turn to petty crime. So we have this single mother and feisty 6-year-old daughter Marghe – left alone while mother goes looking for a job, gets involved with friends who’re into conning crimes like kidnapping dogs of the rich for ransom money!
The lovely, sincere Marghe, with her Christian values intact in her psyche, baulks when it comes to stealing the golden crowns on Mother Mary’s statues in the local church… at the final moment though she sinks into despair about how she is being forced to live. As police turn up, her accomplice runs, Claudia dances away in glorious breakdown – telling police and pious judgmental congregation that queen Mary herself came down from her pedestal to gift her with the gold crowns, the big one for her and the small one for her daughter Marghe.
The last scene is so exquisitely etched I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. It’s so much stark beauty and riches contrasting against grim impoverishment…above all of society’s non-human values of heart and soul!
WELL, that was IFFI more or less for me this year. On that note it’s avjo, selamat datang, poite verem, au revoir, arrivedecci and vachun yetta here for now as I await December to offer up finer colder weather for the Christmas-New Year season…it’s supposed to be a Goan winter but where is it? It’s still not here.

— Mme Butterfly

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