The Economist introduces a new column on Asia this week in an article titled "In the Shade of the Banyan Tree", with this background:
"SOME 165 years, 161 years and 114 years since its correspondents first filed reports respectively from Calcutta, Shanghai and Yokohama, The Economist this week launches a column on Asian affairs. We have taken a while, but is this not, after all, to be the Asian century? We think probably so..."
"the search for an Asian identity is growing. It forms the backdrop to the annual East Asia Summit, held this year in Thailand from April 10th, grouping the ten South-East Asian countries with not just their partners in China, Japan and South Korea but India, Australia and New Zealand as well. The powerful impulse for co-operation is materialism based on rapid economic development..."
Looks like the Economist will have a lot of material to work with for the new column.
Why the Banyan Tree? The piece goes on to explain:
"A dearth of pan-Asian images speaks volumes, but the banyan tree serves better than most, for it or similar trees are found somewhere in most Asian countries. The banyan spans Asia’s spirituality and its entrepreneurialism. The Bodhi tree, under which Buddha attained enlightenment, was a banyan by another name. Gujarati merchants conducted business under it, and the Portuguese lent their name, banyan, to the tree. It stuck."
"...An ancient connection exists between public business and the banyan tree, as between its huge overarching shade and its deep intertwining roots. In South-East Asia, and Java in particular, the shade was a place of learning and a site where rulers vowed justice. Those are Asian values to which Banyan will happily subscribe."
As an Indian born kid, I remember going through a phase of sketching one Banyan tree after another.
So it seems appropriate as a title for this new experiment. Here's to reading much more about Asia underneath this Banyan Tree.