On the western coast of India in Mumbai city – the Mecca of Bonsai in India live Jyoti & Nikunj Parekh who have converted a vast number of Indians into Bonsai, Saikei and greenery enthusiasts. Between the two of them they tend their more than 1000 bonsai trees, tray landscapes at their terrace in Mumbai and at a farm located 70 km from Mumbai.
It was Jyoti who began experimenting with tropical trees in the early 1970’s which became an obsession and by 1977 resulted in TROPICAL BONSAI, the first book on Bonsai in the tropics. By 1979, the husband and wife team founded BONSAI STUDY GROUP of THE INDO-JAPANESE ASSOCIATION. Almost all the students, personalities and talented teachers of bonsai in India, at one time or another, have undergone training under the aegis of their group. For more than three decades they have been actively organizing and conducting events across India, by way of workshops, lecture demonstrations, and exhibitions. They have co-authored 'WONDERWORLD OF TROPICAL BONSAI' and 'WONDERWORLD OF BONSAI & SAIKEI' which are reference books for Botany students in Indian universities. Over a period of 30 years, they have introduced many new varieties of plants suitable for the tropics like Ficuses, Wrightias, Bucida spinosa and many more.
Widely traveled, both of them underwent training with Bonsai Masters John Naka, Saburo Katoh, Susumu Nakamura and Toshio Kawamoto. They were introduced to garden landscaping by the late Mr.Kenzo Ogata of Japan. They have given demonstrations in the U.K., U.S.A., Sri Lanka, Europe, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Since 1985, Nikunj is the editor of NICHIN BONSAI, a quarterly magazine. In 1986, they made a unique wall mural depicting scenery with well shaped perennial trees. In the summer of 1987, they created similar murals at the International Bonsai Congress held at Minneapolis and also at Honolulu and New York in USA, London in U.K. and Heidelberg in Germany. In 1990 they created a wall mural at the World Horticulture Expo at Osaka and won a silver medal. They have led groups of Bonsai growers to USA, Europe, Japan, China, Taiwan, U.K., Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and Thailand.
1989 was a landmark year when Nikunj was invited to be a director of World Bonsai Friendship Federation as a representative of South Asia Region after founding Bonsai Friendship Federation of India. In the year 2000, Nikunj was appointed a director of Bonsai Clubs International and later on appointed the first Ambassador of BCI in India.
Photo essays, features on Bonsai written by Jyoti & Nikunj have been published in leading newspapers, journals and periodicals not only in India but also in International Bonsai magazines. They have featured in a number of TV programmes on Bonsai, Gardening, and Bottle gardening from time to time. Between the two of them they have won the JAL World Bonsai contest in 1999, 2000 and 2005. In 2005, both of them conducted a workshop at the 5th World Bonsai Convention held in Washington D.C.
In the last three decades, Jyoti also made a mark in the field of Vegetarian Cooking and has taught thousands of students with demonstrations in India, U.K., Belgium, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, Kenya & USA. She has authored a number of books on International and Indian cuisine along with the art of fruit and vegetables carving. She has developed a skill in gift wrapping into a skilful art, and has authored a book on it.
Jyoti and Nikunj Parekh keep busy conducting workshops across India or tending their Bonsai in Mumbai or at their farm. On weekends they prefer to be amidst nature, watching birds, growing organic vegetables, listening to music or sketching trees. In 2006, the Parekhs were publicly honoured at the famous Kishkindia Moolika Bonsai Garden in Mysore, India. Nikunj was given an honourary name of “Sahsyabandhu” by Pujya Swamiji Ganapathy Sachchidananda.
In January 2009, they founded the ’Frangipani Garden Group’ to share knowledge on greenery, environment, gardening, horticulture and garden craft.
On 12th July 2009, Jyoti and Nikunj, both were honoured and presented with Gold Medals from WBFF (World Bonsai Friendship Federation) in Puerto Rico –USA, during the 6th World Bonsai Convention. This was presented to them for their efforts in spreading the art of Bonsai in India and World. In the past three decades they have been felicitated with fifty seven awards and citations from various countries, organizations and groups.
The Parekhs have diligently silently worked for more than thirty years promoting Bonsai Art, furthering Greening Efforts, helping Adivasi school children with inputs, aiding in their education, encouraging them to green their surroundings, organising medical camps and painting Competitions.
They helped in building bridges of friendship between the people of India & Japan. (particularly Mumbai-Yokohama Sister City Relationship)
On Wednesday the 26th August 2009 at felicitation event organized by Indo-Japanese Association, Mr. Nana Chudasama, Founder of “I Love Mumbai” Committee informed the large gathering that “the honour given to Nikunj & Jyoti by World Bonsai Friendship Federation was long overdue. It is high time the Government of Maharashtra and Government of India too honour them for spreading and promoting Bonsai Art in every corner of our country." On the same occasion Ms. Pheroza Godrej, President of National Association of ‘Friends of The Trees’ complimented the Parekhs as ardent greenery and nature lovers. The trustee of Indo-Japanese Association, Mr. Suresh Kotak, presented them with a silver salver on this occasion. The event was preceded by a presentation prepared by Students and Members of Bonsai Study Group on “Thirty years journey into the Wonder world of the Parekh couple”.
On 14th of March 2012 Consul General of Japan Mr. Tamon Mochida conferred a certificate of commendation in honour of my small and humble efforts at spreading Bonsai – the venerable art of the orient, amongst people of India since 1979. During the last three decades and more I tried building “Bridges of Friendship” between people of India & Japan. On the occasion of award conferring, my reply was as under and I wish to share them with you: “For this opportunity, I pay my respects to Late Mr. G. S. Pohekar, Late Mr. Lalji Mehrotra and Late Mr. S. P. Godrej who allowed me to take small steps towards this bridge building. A special mention has to be made of Mr. Minoo Shroff, my mentor who encouraged for almost last two decades and with whom I travelled to Japan several times.
I must also make a special mention of my life partner, Jyoti, who together has walked and worked with me in pursuing the meditative art of Bonsai. In teaching this art to thousands of students across India, we were blessed by teachers in Japan, India and the world over. On this journey we acquired talented colleagues, well wishers and learnt life principles.
Now I am reminded of the golden words of a sage, from a book “MOST AND MORE”. The Voice Ra who said and I quote: “Success is in big things. Happiness in the small things. Meditation is in nothing. And God is in everything.”
“The delays in appreciation are in no way Almighty’s denials.”
This award is in many ways due to the students who have also been my teachers in many ways, for more than 3 decades.
Commendation Certificate from Japan Consulate on 14th March 2012 awarded to Nikunj Parekh for more than three decades of work on Bonsai & for building bridges of friendship between people of Japan & India.
During All India Bonsai Convention – Vadodara 2012, Parekhs got 4 BCI awards for their best bonsai displayed in the exhibition. They also got 1 award for best photos of their bonsai from photo panel.
In February 2013 Eye Camp for the Kalote village was organized by Parekh’s where more than hundred people were treated and given specks & 15 people operated for cataracts.
On 15th August 2013 Art Competition was organize for school children of Kalote & Nadode village.
Japan Festival 2013 – 20th December to 22nd December, 2013 was organized at Ahmedabad by
Consulate General of Japan, Mumbai & Indo-Japan Friendship Association, Gujarat. It was at Jaykrishna
Harivallabhdas-AMA Centre for Indo-Japanese Relations. We were invited to give Bonsai demonstrations during
this festival of Japan.