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Grand flower power

Meena Anantnarayan, the only grandmaster of ikebana, has been instrumental in popularising the art. For her efforts she is being conferred with an award by the Government of Japan today.

HER TRYST with flowers began in her childhood and later developed into a deep passion. Fond of flowers, she took up ikebana and carved a niche for herself in this art of Japanese flower arrangement. Meena Anantnarayan is today the only grandmaster of the Ohara School in the country. She is being conferred a prestigious award - the order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold & Silver Rays in appreciation of her vast experience in the field of flower arrangement and excellent efforts taken by her in contributing to the growth of Ikebana art and familiarising it not only in A.P. but also in other parts of the South. This award is being presented on behalf of the Government of Japan by the Consul General (from Chennai) at a function in the ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel and Towers today.

Meena Anantnarayan has been steeped in ikebana for the last four decades having started to learn formally in 1961. Fond of flowers since a child, she grew up in the garden city of Bangalore. "My parents were aesthetic people and encouraged me to arrange whatever flowers we grew in the garden," she recollects. Marriage and children followed but her interest in flowers was sustained through making arrangements with whatever was available (even jungle flowers) in all the towns and cities she stayed.

Her husband was a pillar of encouragement and support. "He felt that I needed an outlet for my artistic instinct." At the same time, a friend of hers felt that her natural artistic talent had to be properly channelised. As luck would have it (or even divine grace as she says) there was an advertisement in the paper about Japanese flower arrangement classes by the Indo-Japanese Association. So she enrolled in them and took about 12 lessons from the late Nirmala Lukmani. Thus began the journey which continues even today.

"My teacher inspired me to learn more. So I took advanced lessons." Thenceforth, Meena Anantnarayan started teaching the art (after seeking the permission of the teacher). Wherever she stayed she took classes, organised and participated in exhibitions. She did a number of demonstrations for the Red Cross, AIWC, Lions Club, Army (in Hyderabad) and slowly her student population grew over the years.

In 1971 she made her first trip to Japan to learn under grandmaster Houn Ohara (his grandfather founded the Ohara School). For the intensive study of two-and-a-half months duration she was trained by various masters besides Ohara. Subsequently, she not only made more trips but also qualified herself with many certificates. She became a grandmaster in 1999. Importantly she started the Ohara Study group in Hyderabad in 1987 which consequently led to the formation of the Hyderabad Chapter of Ohara School of Ikebana in 1988 with her as the founder-president. Today after handing over the reins of the Ohara Chapter to Meenakshi Devi, she is resting on all the laurels gained after decades of hard work.

"The beauty of Ikebana lies in the fact that anything and everything can be used. One does not need exotic flowers and leaves for arrangement. Anything locally available can be used - that's the essence of ikebana. It shows the cycle of life," she says. She has demonstrated this successively throughout in the various places she resided in. She is known also for her attempts at synthesising ikebana with Indian culture, tradition, mythology and philosophy. Her exhibitions `Seasons of India' (Kalidasa's `Ritusmhara'), `Krishna Kusumika' (the story of Krishna), `Ganga avatar' are some of the efforts which reflect the fusion.

Meena Anantnarayan, through her floral themes and arrangements, brings an awareness of nature. For she uses not just flowers, but twigs, leaves and even dried stuff in her arrangements. Respect nature, is her dictum. And her house is a veritable one for greenery where trees, shrubs and ferns nestle in peaceful co-existence. This harmony is evident in the arrangements too.

And when one looks at a flower arrangement one is struck by the sense of harmony, symmetry and beauty.

RADHIKA RAJAMANI

Photo: K. Ramesh babu

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