In the year that the kurinji last bloomed most profusely, I waited in this coastal city for my body to stop bleeding so that I could travel to the hills to see the flowers. My body, imbalanced, did not stop in time. The summer slipped away in illness and sorrow, and even by the season’s tail – when just enough flowers remained like a whispered rumour – something else kept me away.
One morning in the last gasp of December, I woke to the calculation of how much time had passed since, counting to the next season when purple petals will unfurl in the hill, a revelation. Only nine and a half years to go.
I had read that a kurinji inflorescence occurred in 2020 too, little-documented because people were not yet cavalier about travel then. There are different cycles because of different times in which the plants took seed, and because of other vicissitudes of the natural world. Perhaps the next chance to see them is closer still, but what feels like chance is often only a sum of circumstances.
More than one person told me back in 2018 that they were pessimistic about whether the flowers will bloom again in 2030. But we don’t know, do we, if we will even be here on this planet then? Or what this planet will be, after our extinction. Remember the phrase “nature is healing”, that so quickly became a caption for hoaxes and humour? I can believe the kurinjipoo will still be here, even when our footprints no longer make paths in the dirt to see it, to capture its image, then to show ourselves to the world through that image. It’s easier to believe in a flower than in human wisdom sometimes.
Extinction is not an auspicious idea to break a new year open with, perhaps. Let us say finiteness then. The finiteness of a calendar year, a month in which only one moon-bleed should come unless the tides of body and world are out of sync, a single day. How will I fill this finite year, taking into it the lessons of the last one – a year even non-believers felt was cursed, and all who experienced it were forced to take in small increments. Did you, like me, keep lists? I found one from March or April, headed: “What I will do in the next 21 days of lockdown”. Many of us would not have survived if we’d known how long the winter was to be. Many didn’t.
I am 35 years old. I have seen neither the kurinji nor snow. What do I know of any seasons but the ones my body has clocked?So here we are at the start of a year that feels less like a fresh page and more like wiping off the debris on a windowpane and daring to look at the horizon again. Here’s what I know: if I focus on life hour after hour and week by week, working sedulously with what is at hand, that’s enough. What is beyond will still arrive in radiant glimpses, even if its blossoming is still a long, abstract time away.
An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on January 7th 2021. “The Venus Flytrap” appears in Chennai’s City Express supplement.