Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Venus Flytrap: Dancing With Eyes Closed

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Every day I read my cards. Every day, I draw them, decipher them, and am drawn back to them. And every day, I look up my horoscopes. For my sun sign, my rising sign, and the signs of those I care for. I read a whole bouquet – and I’m not the sort to pick the most optimistic one and go by it.

Scoff if you want, but I know I’m not the only one. The fear of the future and the desire to be reassured about it, or at least prepare for it, are intrinsic to human nature. Some people take out insurance, consult business projections, or discuss sports strategies ahead of the match. Others meditate for answers, speak to soothsayers, or watch for omens. There is no real difference in what motivates the desire to know, and to work ahead of foreseen outcomes. Is meteorology really more accurate than augury, just because it is a science? I can’t remember it ever raining when a weather forecaster declared that it would, against season. But I do remember watching a therukoothu dancer sing to the goddess for rain one afternoon, and have it come down – torrentially, unseasonally – that same deeply heartening evening.

But that doesn’t mean one is truer than the other, or that either one is true at all. I’m not here to argue about the soundness of the mystical arts, or to prove what I know empirically to be true in everyone else’s lives too. All I’m saying is that the need for reassurance is universal. Everybody looks for a guarantee, or at least a cushioning against disappointment. To expect something is to rob it of its power to surprise, and conversely, to deepen its delight with sweet anticipation. And most of all, I think we look for comfort, for evidence of the possibility of all things, however inconsistent with the cold realities we experience.

But the truth is, there is no map. There is no alignment so perfect that its choreography lets you dance with your eyes closed.

Of course, you may ask, is it really, freely, dancing at all if you believe in a design? How dare I believe myself truly engaged with the world, truly open to experience, if I want to know what lies two paces ahead, instead of just walking – or waltzing – into it?

The thing is, I have found that belief enriches my life far more than cynicism ever could. I am able to live more mindfully because I can trust there is a bigger picture. I’ve never believed in coincidences, only synchronicity. Sometimes I look at someone and see their whole lives in a moment. Sometimes I know I have travelled through time. Sometimes the universe opens up and the dots I connected reveal themselves to be constellations. And sometimes it doesn’t, oh but when it does…

And if there is no bigger picture? If I die and cease to exist, if I follow and cease to find? Who cares. Life is short either way, and I’d rather be delusional than deprive myself of enchantment at all.

I would rather see miracles everywhere, because I believe in them, than be unable to recognise all the ones before and within me, because I refuse to acknowledge their very existence.

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: Porcelain, Lately

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I’ve been buying blue.

Not the blues – not music or depression, both of which I have in abundance. I’ve been buying blue in a very specific way – for weeks now, every item of clothing I’ve purchased has been in that colour. I’ve been buying blue clothing as though, well, it was going out of style.

To be precise, the theme is, overwhelmingly, blue with white. Everywhere I turn to empty my wallet as though that would detox my heartsickness, I am drawn to the lacing of those two colours. The cornflower blue sundress cut in a decades-old style that flatters women cut soft like me, the deep-necked casual top in a particularly vivacious Prussian shade, the long-sleeved blouse reminiscent of a kebaya – all of them sieved through with white in floral, psychedelic and paisley prints. Then there’s the tube dress bought off the street on a Sunday I suddenly found myself in Pondy, the lingerie, the saree I chose for my birthday with its electric cobalt so unusual I almost couldn’t find a blouse (but I did, of course).

Sapphire spiked with snowflakes. The sea and its foam. A certain man’s eyes the moment they find yours. Pick your imagery, I don’t care – I may be a poet but I am as much a bird known for my plumage as I am for my song. I buy it as though the colours are in season, like fruit or fads, or umbrellas in the monsoon – though the truth is I am working to the demands of an internal meteorology alone. I buy it as though there will be enough somedays to wear it all.

Why am I doing this? Dressing as if to declare I am porcelain, lately.

I met someone who reads auras. Mine was pinkish on the day we met, but I generally seem to carry a grey one, according to him, which is all the things you might think it might mean. “Wear bright shades,” the aura-reader advised, not having yet been properly acquainted with my infamously kindergartener sense of colour. “It will make a difference.”

I know this to not be true. I wore purple to my grandmother’s funeral, because she had liked that saree. My nails are never anything but red. I have a weakness for yellow ochre and fuchsia. If there is a colour I have not worn, it isn’t visible to the human eye. But it’s like painting a papier-mâché globe; all that’s inside is a burst balloon.

And this is what makes me wonder if, somewhere, it is the ocean after all that I keep trying to recapture. I know now that there are people who will manipulate the grief of someone in mourning. I learnt this the only way one can learn things like this. Six weeks after the funeral to which I wore purple, I took my grief to the sea the way almost everyone does – in their own ways, their own seas, allegorical and actual – hoping to be washed clean of it, and got caught instead in a undercurrent that slammed me back ashore: stripped, seaclogged, vomiting salt.

Not everything is a metaphor. But some things reveal a pattern, fractal though it may be. If I seek to wear the sea, it is only because the coast has disappeared.

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.

Some Paintings, a Q+A, an Elephant

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My childhood friend and incredibly gifted artist Michael Mata did these amazing digital paintings of me for my birthday.

And Abhimanyu Kumar Singh, who is my favourite interviewer and the kind of reader a writer lives for, did this lighthearted Q+A over lunch last week. We also played Cadaver Exquisito, which he’s reprinted in his blog as well. That question about the death-duel is the best I have ever been asked in an interview.

And here’s a genius elephant, which has nothing to do with me except it’s possibly more intelligent than you and I both.