Neil Bhandari

Ensemble since 2017

Picture a low forest. Spanning thousands of square feet, stretching and expanding via aerial roots-  roots growing from branches overhead and running vertically into the ground. At first glance, adorned in vines and greenery, these roots appear to be ordinary, slender tree trunks. Walking among them one has the sense of wandering a miniature wood of nymphs and fairies and other fantastical things. But the branches, webbed together overhead in a canopy of endless knots and loops and impossible twists, assert this forest’s connectivity and continuity. It is a single tree. After surviving two cyclones and a lightning strike, the original trunk is destroyed, but by that time the tree has grown wide enough, and has established sufficient auxiliary rooting to continue flourishing in the intense tropical climate of its home.


Picture the tree- this Ficus benghalensis- sprouting on the other side of the globe- unbound to history, unencumbered by intent, with only an instinct to exist- some two hundred and fifty years ago- on the very day, in fact, that the Declaration of Independence is adopted. See its slow growth and crackling outsprings. See it drowning and emerging and redoubling under late-July monsoons. Under waning crescent moons, amidst revolutions of army and industry, indifferent to both, answering to each. Black clouds puncturing its lungs that it makes new lungs. A small brown creature, ambidextrous and soft-furred, swings from branch to root to branch, plucking its figs, tweezing insects from its knots and craters, peeling a long, narrow strip of bark for a comb and a toothbrush.

The small creature, array of provisions and effects in tow, builds a home, a family, an army, colonizes the tree. Wages war, wanders and starves, wonders and thrives. The moon changes, the weather changes, night becomes night. Creature and tree overlap and envelop one another, apart and together. The tree, unbound to history, unencumbered by intent, with only an instinct to exist, sprouts and roots and fucks and figs, deeper down, higher up, wider still.

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Generalist. Working, building, thinking and making in and around Chicago, Illinois, since 1981. Writer, singer, husband, brother, ocean lover, pizza maker, #2 hitter, storyteller, world traveler, satisfied dinner guest. Seeking thrills, honing skills, paying bills.