Monthly Archives: April 2009

The Venus Flytrap: In Defense of Developing World Diva Hair

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I have oppressed woman hair. No, not “oppressed hair”, as Alice Walker famously put it; the ceiling on my brain cannot be blamed on the chemicalisation or colonisation of my locks. I mean I have the hair of an oppressed woman, heavy duty developing world diva hair. Think Draupadi. Think Dravidian Rapunzel. I have hair that practically demands sitting on a swing and gazing wistfully at a world of dangerous things like riding side-saddle, or smiling beatifically in Amar Chitra Katha comics while undergoing trials by fire for the love of incredibly undeserving men. (Such activities are much better scapegoats for the ceiling on my brain).

But why should I apologise? Not everything needs to be forced through a feminist or subaltern perspective, you know. Remember that line, my similarly-styled sisters: it sounds a lot better as a defense than, “Don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m beautiful, hate me ‘cuz your boyfriend thinks so”. And if you must know, I have oppressed woman hair as reclamation, damnit! It’s subversive to be traditional in a world of peroxide and pageboys! These tresses are radical aesthetics, deliberate declarations! They are avant-garde, anarchist, insurrectional… and just incidentally, quite pretty.

I know hair is political. But I think above and beyond that it is deeply, deeply personal. I wear mine messy, letting it be as schizophrenically curly or straight as it pleases. When I am healthy it shines black. When I am not it dries brown. I used to trim it myself, until I stopped wanting to trim it at all. It’s a gorgeous disaster – which happens to be my favourite kind. But I promise you I comb it. Most days, anyway.

I discovered I had this ridiculous hair ten years ago, about the same time I started wearing a fake nose stud, before my parents – modern folks who continue to be deeply disappointed by the bindi-wearing, diamond-nostriled, handloom-sareed miscreant I turned out to be – let me pierce it for real. I’ll never forget that day. I loosened my hair to retie it in a classroom and someone said she wished she had my “beautiful long hair”. That’s when I noticed it myself. I was thirteen and nothing about me had ever been beautiful in my life.

So you see why I can’t let it go.

There are things which come with the acceptance that one is, herself, a complicated country, a feral thing. My developing world diva hair is one of those things, for me. I’ve seen how, subconsciously, it has been part of my semiology. I have tied it up to desex myself. I have worn twin braids to appear innocuous. I have worn it like a wild thing and been that wild thing. I am not the only kind of woman I know, mine is not the only femininity. But this is the only kind of woman I know how to be.

A woman friend of mine recently went bald, and a couple of days later, fell off the bed and injured her newly shiny cranium. On the upside, it was easier to check for bumps.

“You do realise,” I told my bed-bouncing friend, “That your autopsy report will have the words, ‘jungle sex'”?

“What a great way to go,” she grinned (emoticon-ally, that is. World Citizen is just a euphemism for people whose entire social lives are conducted via technology). I couldn’t disagree – that’s exactly what a badass bald babe wants on her Wikipedia memorial page, anyway. I guess a simpering traditionalist like me, in the event that all other attempts at infamy fail, could just hang myself by the hair.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.

The Venus Flytrap: Surviving Venus Retrograde For Dummies

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Venus, my beloved cosmologically-savvy friends tell me, is in retrograde. Which means that it looks like it’s moving backwards in the heavens (or in the regions beyond the gravitational influence of the earth, if you’re a soulless skeptic), but it isn’t. Kind of like when your columnist appears to be gossiping and procrastinating on Gtalk, but isn’t – I assure you she is having really incisive conversations plumbing the depths of the human psyche, letting her findings percolate, deciding on an appropriate sociocultural context, then spending several hours editing the resulting treatise apropos the word limit, all to entertain you for four minutes over Saturday morning hangover coffee.

So Venus is not moving but she looks like she is. This means your relationships, creative pursuits, travel plans, business investments and sartorial choices are all liable to be royally screwed for a six week period that occurs every year and a half. As I am a penniless celibate sociopathic manquée prone to hanging ostrich feathers from my septum piercing, I can’t really tell the difference. My royal screwage is probably congenital.

You, however, may see Venus backtrack blazingly through your life, but thanks to my vast expertise in astrological spam mail and related Facebook applications, I’d be delighted to guide your remaining two weeks of disasters in all spheres relating to love, lust and luxury. Yes, this retrograde cycle is almost over, and if you’re not also finished by then, cross my palm with silver. Except it loses colour in this abominable weather, so I’d prefer gold.

A strikingly obvious feature of Venusian retrograde is when former flames make an appearance into your thoughts, or your life itself. Take time then to reminisce about the instances they dressed better than you, beat you at Scrabble or set fire to your cat, because you may be currently extra liable to deluded nostalgia. Please note however that if your ex’s reappearance in your life happens while you have coincidentally set up shop in their neightbourhood, this is not a planetary effect. It merely means that you are a stalker with a business strategy. That’s not karmical, just comical.

Avoid beauty procedures. Plastic surgery, radical haircuts and the like are obvious taboos, but may I recommend adding showering to the list? It will avert suitors, and new alliances formed at this time tend to be star-crossed anyway. If you’re tempted to invest in the stock market, don’t. My reasons aren’t that romantic. It’s called an economic crisis. If you need an astrologer to tell you that, remember that I am worth every gold ingot (per minute, taxes extra). Don’t travel – you may cause envy in your astrologer. If you find yourself stagnating on your magnum opus, join the rest of us brilliant tortured types at the bar. You may meet someone suitably inspiring. Just don’t propose marriage. Venus is on rewind, and you’re probably just on rebound.

When Venus goes direct in the middle of April, trees should flower, birds should get operatic and damsels should have frequent wardrobe malfunctions near you. Provided you’ll have heeded my advice, very little should interrupt your bliss – except for Mercury going retrograde three weeks later. Then, however, I can’t help you. Merc rules communication, and you may find that your correspondences to me remain mysteriously unacknowledged – I mean, undelivered. I assure you that such silence is a purely cosmological phenomenon and has nothing to do with your hourly messages to me during Venus retrograde. Or the paanwalla pushcart parked near my house. In such cases, let me just say that all my Venus Flytraps stay firmly zipped.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express. “The Venus Flytrap” is my column in the Zeitgeist supplement. Previous columns can be found here.