Tag Archives: ocean

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.

Poem: Mermaid

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MERMAID

They found the mermaid the morning after.
She was the colour of homemade toffee, burnt
in places, mellow in others. Her hair fragile
as flax. Her beautiful, brittle fins. When the man
who found her, lifting the seaweed veiling her face,
knelt at her hip, his breath like broken glass, she
looked to him like she would crumble to the touch.

Around him, the shore lay shattered like the
heart of a woman who knows her mother has
turned against her. He traced with hands anxious
with liquor the aghast shape of her jaw. Her bones.
Her ribs like stacked haloes, her tough browned
skin. The delicate, exquisite patterns of her scales.
The sharp, ridged points at which her tail flared
into a crescent, a sinewed handheld fan.

His tears came slowly, at first, and then in little
detonations of despair. The first lesson of the ocean,
he had always known, was reciprocity. What the
mother took from mortals, she would return in
equal fervour. Her sleeping child coiled into
the tentacles of weed and debris, sucked deep
within the womb and expelled like so many other
bodies. He listened to her roar then and heard not
cruelty, not death, but hideous, intolerable grief.

(For back story, please see here)