The Venus Flytrap: Certain Completed Geometries


When I realised that my wallet had been stolen at a train station on my way back from a weekend in another city, my first thought was about my debit card, which a phone call quickly took care of. My second thought was about the currency it had held, which was also abated by the realization that I had – serendipitously – been unable to withdraw more than a small amount at the ATM the previous night, and what more, for reasons completely out of character, had stashed enough change in my pocket for a couple of teas and a plate of hot bhaji for the six hours ahead. My third thought, and the one that made my heart momentarily plunge the most, was about the talismans that wallet had held.

There had been two – both gifts. A Buddhist one for grief, given to me the night before the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death. And another one, which had been personally blessed by a deceased mystic, and which had come to me through a surreal collusion of dreams, magic space and psychic reciprocity. The second was profoundly sentimental; the first less so – but both were meaningful. What startled me was not that they were gone – but that they had gone at the same time.

I hadn’t always been this sort of person – the sort who wears, who keeps, who trusts. But ever since I became this sort of person, I’ve seen that the nature of talismans is to offer temporary protection. The nature of talismans, in essence, is to get lost. We ourselves grow too attached to them to let them go, let alone recognise that their work has been done. They must be wrenched from us in acts of fate, in seeming carelessness, and we must accept their disappearances as markers of certain completed geometries.

The carnelian stone I carried in my jeans pocket from one crucial meeting until I lost it somewhere in a flurry of hotel rooms, while the career catalysts it had accompanied culminated in certain profound and quantifiable rewards. The dead butterfly that simply vanished from my wardrobe upon my return from a shattering retreat. Time and again I have found them, recognized them as talismanic, and learned – after the initial sense of disappointment and shock – to acknowledge their departures as necessary closures.

What does this mean then, to lose these two amulets at once? One was for forgetting, the other for remembering. The first was to help with the surrender that bereavement demands, the other was the lamp left lit so I could find my way back to a place that in moments – in this day to day reality – seems sometimes to have been almost illusory.

I would like to think that perhaps I have finally learnt how to see in all sorts of darkness – that the heart has memorised the map, and neither torches nor known yet treacherous paths are necessary to return to or to honour that which has been lost.

What have I forgotten, and what have I remembered? With both of these talismans gone, I wonder now not just what has come to its denouement, but what I will find next. What will it see me through? And when it goes, what will I have learnt to see by then?

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.

5 responses »

  1. How eerie is it for me to read this today – a mere few days after I lost my own beloved wallet on a bus here in Bangkok?

    The wallet itself was of special memory to me – bought in Cambodia from a very young child stricken with unimaginable physical ailments. The wallet was my memory of her smile and of her gladness when I purchased the small token from her.

    In the wallet, I had a myriad of things: all of my bus tickets during my travels in Thailand, my identification card for the school I currently teach in, slips of paper on which I had written passing thoughts, a picture of a dear friend, and a small stone I had picked up from Angkor Wat. I had just gone to the ATM on the same day, so there was a considerable amount there – but money, to me, is inconsequential.

    I’ll stop rambling here – but I hope you understand that you’re not alone in losing something that was so memorable to you.

  2. may be just me..may be its man things– i try associate memory with places/experiences instead of things bez with things and with lifestyle of relocating and living out of was difficult.
    iam sure you can still be remained about what those things meant, how/when it was given,etc.. but looking at them. and may be absence of it might make you think about those things more than its presence.

    but what shouldn’t to blame (if)any misfortune happens to this lose…

  3. I was mugged sometime back. In addition to my cash and cards I lost a cellphone; a gift from my father. I was mortified as it was not just a phone, it meant so much more. At the time my father told me not to be overly sentimental about it. Little did we know that he would die 8 months later. I understand how you feel.

  4. Losing a wallet can hurt more than losing a girlfriend :). You don’t get to replace a few things which were in it. The talismans , like you said could be replaced. But it would be difficult to replace your voters ID of the world :)

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