The Venus Flytrap: A Matter Of Time

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Some people will do nothing they deem important in the month of Aadi. They will not marry, they will not purchase property, they will not begin a business venture. I was born in this month, and I measure what is malefic and what is auspicious on another set of terms. The pages of calendars turn differently at different times. Anyone knows this. Some years rush by before you can count them. Some lacerate you so deeply that nothing ever comes to pass again without a sense of a reset, a point at which things came either before or after.

The wise have already taught us that time is an illusion. The wise-but-still-practical have taught us that it is a construct. It exists as we understand it because we invented clocks and calendars. There are other ways to measure even this, this practical view of reality. The shifting seasons. The way sunlight is partitioned by darkness. And then there is the moon, a perennial example even as she waxes and withdraws, even as she moves away from us at an inch and a half each year. (It tells you something about me, that I know this because of a poem, “Facts About The Moon” by Dorianne Laux. And each of our years only lasts so long because of this heavenly body’s orbit around its sun, and not by how its satellite gets further and further away).

Then there are the needs and cycles of the human body, and also the way nothing can stop its gradual decay. Some of my friends had crows’ feet at 25, and loved them, yet I know sexagenarians who dye their hair jet black. Another illusion. I don’t know how long I’ve had a smattering of dark dots around one eye but I think of them like spots on a deer’s pelt, I will not part with them even if they could be kissed off. I am told the dancer Chandralekha’s hair turned ivory not with age but in a cosmetic accident. Another illusion: perhaps that’s one of many ways in which she transcended time.

When I hear people say “it’s only a matter of time” to the unconsoled, I hear a platitude that allows them to not have to sit with them in the present, the place to which they are pinned. I’ve been the unconsoled, often (a useful but still vague measure of time). I know no one can have that assurance. I also know that very few have the grace to be patient alongside those who have no choice but to be.

Because time, ultimately, moves in ways beyond our control, even within the measures we seek to know it in. A construct, a concept or otherwise, it is what we are. The composite of how we move in the world, spend our lives (birth and death, and the in-between: that’s one decisive measure of time). Our long-sighted visions, our infinitesimally small moments. The things that they say will take time only truly take presence, our persistent belief that something will come to pass. Even if it is out of our hands. Even if it’s only an illusion.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on July 20th 2017. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.

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