The Venus Flytrap: Forbidden Fruit


This morning, I woke up humming, absolutely arbitrarily, the refrain “movin’ to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches; movin’ to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches”. It took a few moments to remember that this is the opening lyric of a song from the mid-90’s – and when I recalled that it was by a band named PUSA (Presidents of the USA) and made the obvious phonetic association, my day began in an auspiciously giggly mood.

If you miss my gist entirely, I can only direct you to T.S. Eliot, whose existentially-ailing J. Alfred Prufrock rued his lack of luck with women and pondered, “Do I dare eat a peach?” Though of course, peaches aren’t for all of us. This brings to mind the cat’s pyjamas of suburban legends I’ve heard about people who really, really love their fruits and veggies (and this is a genre in itself – let’s call it pulp fiction). This one’s set in one of those histrionically chauvinistic universities, in which male and female students are segregated to a degree that suggests that whatever’s in the water in those campuses must be so lushly virile that even the boys risk pregnancy.

That the young woman in this apocryphal tale took a liking to bananas will sound just like any hostel story you might already know involving carrots, cucumbers or – I wince at the thought – corn on the cob (of the venerable and trusty lady’s finger, one never hears). That a banana took too much of a liking to her, became stuck, and went rotten over the course of several days will also remind you of all the wickedly hilarious medical emergencies these stories always seem to end up in. But the really juicy part? It seems that ever since this unfortunate incident, bananas in the women’s canteen of this institution are only served chopped. The men’s canteen continues to serve them whole. Boys, apparently, don’t like bananas. No word, however, on how apple pies are served.

I mean, you’ve got to wonder: why are all these sex-crazed orchard-marauders always girls?

If these stories have any truth in them, I think it’s fantastic that these girls have sexual agency even within such repressed environments (though the effects on their physical and emotional health are a concern). I don’t see a cause for shame in the least. In fact, I feel a little sorry for the boys who are expected to be ripe with lust, and whose escapades lack the extra succulence that all fruit that is forbidden has.

And there isn’t that much that is forbidden to the heterosexual male in our society, or for which he is judged.

I hope this isn’t going to influence anyone impressionable into expressing his raw longing with pineapples, mingling seed with melons, or channeling his desperation into dates with dates. Though if it does, and a proctologist and an institutional policy change get involved, I’d hope it makes its way into the rich archive of similar rumoured romances.

Still, I’ll say this: if raiding (or raping) the grocery store is only a temporary means, there is one thing in particular one can practice on. It’s the straight man’s (and zigzaggy lady’s) only known permanent cure for desperation. The question is: do you dare eat a peach?

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. Hurray! The much anticipated grocery-story guide that’s the (ahem!) covert companion piece to your flower-power party guide. Love it!!

    Allow me to sign off now, with your very words, willya? (Willa…as if calling on Ms. Cather for consensus)…these words you’d scribbled (for me? oh but I conveniently, comfortingly presumed) in your Postcard, the other day:

    “So this is where I come to escape… because the eight dogs know me well, I walk without fear. I find starfruit and mangosteen on the ground: echoes of my…childhood in the soil of South India. Corn grows nearby: a new experiment…

    The memory of this place takes me a long way. I contain it the way some creatures contain water, subsisting on their interior resources long after their landscape has betrayed them.”

  2. I’d be giving this post a standing ovation if I didn’t have a belly-ache from laughing so hard!

    What writing, Sharanya! A masterful piece — it’s a political commentary with tongue-in-cheek humour and amazing jeu-de-mots.

    Loved it!

  3. Hold the blushing; have you read Carole Maso’s The Art Lover? I’m currently reading it, and think of you each time she brings up “peach” (and oh she does so quite a bit!) LOL.

    Check out this interview with Maso where she makes interesting points on the impossibility of preventing or controlling reader response, opining that one needs to live with the consequences of one’s work.

    I also love that her response to a question on the blurring of boundaries (between fiction and reality in her work) embraces everyone, even the non-writer/artist, in an endearingly disarming way (as opposed to a From The Ivory Tower way):

    “I am genuinely incapable of telling the difference any longer between my so-called real life and my writing life. There is no clear point for me where one begins and one leaves off. I think the work feeds the choices I make in my life and my life feeds the choices I make in my work. And to one degree or another that has always been the case. Each completely creates the other at this point. It’s an odd thing. The creative impulse runs through us all, I think. You don’t have to be a writer or an artist to make, re-make, celebrate, relish, transcend, destroy, rehearse, re-imagine, begin again.”

    Finally, here’s a section titled “Jesus in the Garden” from pg. 213 of the book (and this care-for-your-veggies love note is followed by a semi-hilarious lament set amid scarlet trillium):

    “Transplant seedlings in the evening, Caroline. If you put them in during the heat of the day they will wilt,” he says, walking up to the garden at dusk. “They may not survive the shock.” He pauses. “Or you can plant them on a cloudy day. Or just after rain.”

    “He holds the first seedling in his hand. “Careful not to break the delicate roots,” he says.

    “All winter, collect toilet paper cores and small orange juice cans. Gently slip them over the plants and press them into the ground. They should be snug around the plants because at night the worms come up close to the stems.

    “Protect my beauties, my firstlings, my primeurs, from the frost. My asparagus and artichokes. My tender sweet peas, green beans, early spinach. Sorrel, carrots, beets. Take along newspaper hats, fruit baskets, burlap blankets. Anything to hold the warmth from the earth around the foliage through the night.”

    He touches my hand. “This is the word of God.”

    PS: For a titular surprise, look up The Art Lover on Amazon and “search inside book” by keyword “hexagon” (pg. 121). Enjoy! BTW found a favorite chapter online.

    PPS: Also, an awesome essay by Maso (titled “Rupture, Verge, Precipice…”) that I couldn’t have enough of.

  4. “trusty and venerable lady’s finger” oh I see what you did there… teehee. I don’t see how men are getting off (the hook) more than women are, though. Doesn’t the law take the women’s side more often?

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