Tag Archives: anger

The Venus Flytrap: Taking My Anger Into Another Year

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A fresh calendar year can bring with it so much promise, as dangerous as it is to be superstitious about it. Most people like to start new things, and even more people use it as a chance to leave certain things behind. This year, I’m very consciously bringing a “negative” emotion forward. I refuse to put my anger about misogyny and sexism in the past. Yes, it takes a toll on me. It makes me grit my teeth, stay awake raging, bear grudges. But no, I won’t give it up.

As this year turns, I finally feel this anger has a place to go: it is a hot, molten metal being poured into the mould of a weapon, made from the alloy of many. I finally feel like being an angry woman is not an aberration, but the status quo. I feel like after a lifetime of shouting that the emperor has no clothes, people are finally conceding that they too knew all along – but didn’t know it was okay to know.

Now, my anger doesn’t overpower me. I’m comfortable giving it space, even making more space for it, so it is less reactive, and therefore more capable. Recently, in what was neither the first and probably isn’t going to be the last time, it was brought to my notice that photos of me were being circulated on an online account sexually objectifying women. Once the account was reported and taken down, I went looking for more such accounts, and reported as many as possible. There are hundreds if not more, on various platforms. All of them steal images of women and caption them provocatively. Someone pointed out a potential danger to me: if someone were to see me in public and assume not only that I offered sexual services but that he was entitled to them, I would be at physical risk (this is a risk that sex workers experience constantly).

But another thought troubled me far more deeply. Not everyone will react with indignation alone to having her photos stolen. Some will feel profound, potentially dangerous, shame. Others will face consequences from their families. As someone well-meaning but with obviously undeveloped political sense said, “It could ruin ladies’ lives.” Yes, it can. It’s all well and good for someone like me to keep posting selfies no matter how many creeps there are on the Internet, or someone like the musician Sia to release her own nude images so no one could else profit from them, but there is a huge majority of women for whom such criminal activity has manifold consequences. Women whose pictures were stolen from matrimonial profiles, for instance. Women whose first taste of liberty came with a cellphone or a social media account they thought was private. Women held hostage by love. I didn’t get to my anger without wading through shame, without having my own education truncated, without being ostracised. I came from the same frog-pond too.

So this is why I’m staying angry. Because there’s still a deficit. I’m just helping hold the fort down until all the women have arrived at the same conclusion. And they will.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on January 4th 2018. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.

The Venus Flytrap: When You Burn A Bridge, But You’re Still On Fire

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The forests are burning, again, and so are the bridges. In one of the most striking images that I‘ve seen, a trajectory of incandescence outlines the distant black hills against the night sky, while the reflection of the blaze dapples the Ganga waters. Visually hypnotic, but terrible both in cause and consequence. The burning has gone on for a long time.

Those bridges I spoke of are only metaphorical: one way to find sense and language for this much incineration.

How does one withdraw support from those who abuse it? Amputation is a question of the correct knife. Sometimes, a needle will do to loosen a knot. Sometimes, it takes the the heaviness of a guillotine. Most times, it requires pulling out the knife that was plunged into one’s back and using it to stake freedom.

You built a bridge so you could share the bounty of your own land. You built a bridge so you could live more of other places, other impressions. You built a bridge because there was someone on a further bank who seemed to need it badly, and you misunderstood those who paid no heed as cruel, not cautious. You built a bridge so you could stand at its centre and marvel at how you suspended everything – doubt and mistrust and past failure – to build it anyway, and here it stands. And still you arrive at the day when you find the balustrades breaking down, the traffic one-way, and silt  weakening the foundations you lay with your own hands. And so you set a torch to it, and as the first flicker kindles, the words in your mouth and your beaten, beating heart are I’m free, I’m free, I’m free.

What is not known about amputation, except by those who have successfully performed it, is this: you don’t cut anything of another person away. You only excise that which has become gangrenous within you because of your involvement with them.

I woke very early one morning this weekend with the awareness that I was carrying tight orbs of anger and unhappiness, forms of thwarted love that had outlived their circumstantial triggers. I was as surprised by them as I would have been to find mice in my mattress, and I responded in the same way. They had no place in my life, in my body, in my bed. The arsonists behind those conflagrations had long since left or been left, but this was what they had left behind.

Who set the forests on fire? Who taught you tears could douse them? I looked at those red-hot burdens and said: this is my work to do.

Boundaries are just as beautiful as bridges. They keep out those who don’t deserve your bounty, your benevolence. But as you draw the lines and keep vigil within them, know that everything that wound up on your riverbank still belongs to you. Some things you cannot transmute except by way of bonfire.

You’ve been an inferno for a long time, any way.

What rises from the ashes is aurelian, smoke-feathered, jewel-eyed. It takes flight by the light of broken bridges as they burn.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on May 5th. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.

The Venus Flytrap: My Bloody Valentine

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There’s a story I like to tell about an incident that hasn’t happened yet, and to be realistic, might never actually occur. This may be my favourite, and most frequently contemplated, revenge fantasy, but it is also by far the most restrained one I could potentially imagine for this scenario. It puts me in an exuberant mood to describe its minutiae – who said what, who wore what, architectural detail, supporting characters, soundtrack and scenery. I love to see how my friends react as we reach the story’s singular defining triumph: the clip clop clip clop of my high heels as I walk away from the table into the afternoon light of a city straight out of a TV show.

My weapons are only words, and they are designed to leave incisions, but not casualties. I intend only to draw the curtains, not to draw blood. The most that is spilled are tears (not mine), and perhaps, for cinematic affectation, the contents of a fine-stemmed glass across a crisp tablecloth. The air ricochets, in that final frame, with the sound of stilettos, not bullets, and those stilettos themselves are deployed for no purposes sharper than style.

I am less tranquil, however, in art – both the art I consume and the art I create. “Not you too, Black Mamba!” I admonished the screen in the disappointing latter half of the Kill Bill diptych, as our Lady of Atonement herself mellowed out like the rest of us lily-livered mortals. Where was the gore and hunger of the first film? Give me blood and guts – literal and figurative – and righteous rage. And glory, in many spades. Do it with flair – do it like the merry murderesses in Chicago, cell-block-tangoing their way to fully, fabulously, deserved incarceration. The best vengeance is vicarious.

Violence enjoyed or expressed through art, indulged in imagination, or released in aggressive sport, is not senseless. If anything, it is sensible – even sensual. It’s a primal scream in a soundproof room. It’s also an indicator of one’s sanity or lack thereof. The sociopath is consumed by it – the sound-minded, as I said earlier, simply consume it. There is a delicious mercenary quality to brief immersion – by participating in a proxy ritual, be it armchair massacre or arm-wrestling, there is relief and satiation for that bloodthirst without anyone else having to suffer for it. Surrogate slaughter, if you will. It is singular obsession that is dangerous.

Perhaps this is why, for someone with such a taste for brutality, my own pet revenge fantasy is so decidedly sterile. No adrenaline, no deeply visceral satisfaction – but also no horrific aftermath, no guilt, no demons – at least, not new ones. What I want is closure. What I want is conversation. Neither are within my grasp for now, so I’ll take what I can get: staving off my madness, the madness we are all capable of, with another movie marathon, the violence of a Pollock, the brute force of the Bösendorfer in the Boys For Pele album, the drum dance, the deep laugh, the riot of my own angry paintbrushes, the pleasure in the way my own voice delivers a certain sequence of words into a microphone, the power to eviscerate a poem of its pretty so all that’s left is elemental, vital, staccato. Clip clop clip clop.

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.