Tag Archives: anticipation

The Venus Flytrap: The Distraction of Waiting

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Here is a short list of things I long for that I can have, but don’t yet: leopard print d’Orsay pumps with a heel of precisely four inches; a holiday in the Western Ghats; an oxidised silver nose stud in a large indigenous design.

That last one has become an obsession. You see, I can’t seem to find any readymade ones that have the South Indian straight pin – simple, sleepable-in, stress-free. They all have coil-wires, also known as Bombay screws.

A year or two ago, I wound up in the Emergency Room at 1a.m. because a coil-wire nose stud I had worn that evening had irritated the inside of my nostril so much that the delicate tissue had swollen, and I could not remove the ornament. There I was, lying on my back in the ward, so perfectly aware of the ridiculousness of the incident that I decided to enjoy it. I think those on duty were slightly taken aback by my excellent taste (or maybe just the size of the bijoux versus the size of my face). How deliciously diva-like. “Madam,” breathed a wide-eyed attendant, clipping instrument in hand, “Is it gold?” Of course it wasn’t. It was cheap beads and alloy and mine for one-night-only, evidently.  But I was most pleased that my Midas touch was being admired. “Not at all,” I smiled, and let two strangers put their fingers into my nose.

What keeps me from just having another bespoke nosepin made, like I did for the one I wear daily (and why yes, that is gold)? How can I explain my waiting other than in terms of delayed gratification?

In this age of instant satisfaction, I’m in praise of anticipation. I don’t want everything at once. I want to want things before I have them, to know that wanting to be true. To first covet then cherish.

The to-be-read pile of books I waited a whole year each to have released in paperback, and still paid princely sums for. You’d think I’d have dived into them instantly upon arrival, surfacing with bed-raggled hair and raccoon eyes like on any morning after a torrid encounter. But no. They gather dust. Their pages don’t bow from being held open. I’ll read them all some day. Savouring. Just not today. They comfort me by the sight of them, their proximity to my sleep and dreams.

The slow burn seduction. The phone that pings and pings all day but never with that particular name. Until it is. And then another intricate dance starts, the more long-winded the better: reams of repartee, a season of sexual tension. Maybe that’s masochistically frustrating to some, but it’s catnip to nine-lived poets. The pleasure of all that is possible.

We must covet the things we can have, among the larger dreams we nurture, because life is full of disappointments of all sizes, and – for those blessed enough to afford it – this is one kind of self-care. We must indulge desire as a form of hope in the fight against futility.

Desire, and defer awhile. See if anything changes. Steady, steady, steady – what’s the rush? The world is ending, anyway.

An edited version appeared in The New Indian Express on January 26th 2017. “The Venus Flytrap” appears on Thursdays in Chennai’s City Express supplement.

The Venus Flytrap: Hunger

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I recently met with a dear friend I hadn’t seen in a year and a half because we had both left the city in which we’d lived. Prior to his arrival, he got in touch to ask if there was anything I wanted from his part of the world. I didn’t miss a beat. “Guarana berry shampoo,” I said. I didn’t even bother to be polite.

I have a fondness for edible things in my toilette. Between a Swiss vanilla shower gel, grapeseed oil body lotion, green tea scented moisturizer and the old world charm of my rose fragrances (dried petals in sharbat are lovely), I must smell – and taste – like confection. To put it as coyly as possible, you could say I would make a most delicious corpse.

I’ve had my experiments with olive body butter, chocolate lipstick, coffee cologne, goat’s milk soap, almond scrubs and seaweed face masks. I’ve clogged my drains putting raw eggs in my hair. And those are just the docile delicacies. Eventually, I suspect I will graduate to sheep’s placenta for my cheeks and awaiting wrinkles – I’ve already conditioned my hair with rabbit’s blood. Someone remarked that I bathe like a Greek goddess – a vengeful one, I laughed.

Perfumes are pleasant, but the smell of food is provocative, appealing to our base needs and instincts. Be they to eat or to be eaten. I don’t shower, I steep and season. I don’t moisturise, I marinate. Like some fatalistic Gretel in a fairytale gone awry, I prepare my body. I tend to it like the gods who made offspring from their dust.

It has nothing to do with beauty and everything to do with pleasure. The pleasure of deep sleep, of a groan or a stretch, of a breath inhaled to fullness. The pleasure of waking before dawn to a blue that percolates into mellow yellow. The pleasure of catching your own eye in the mirror and falling for your own smile. The pleasure of perfect underwear, or none, on a night when I can be a woman with long hair, unbound, listening to Billie Holiday alone. Every road I walk along, I walk along with you. These are pleasures for the solitary ones. The slow burners. These are pleasures best enjoyed in a body seeped in ripe things, pungent.

I bring my braid to my mouth often, my scented wrist to my nose. I touch my bare arms under the canopy of a pashmina wrap, comforted by my own softness. I write poems to the fold at my stomach, such fullness on so small a frame as mine. To take pleasure in one’s own body is to wait without waiting. It’s to own one’s loneliness. To let it drift on its own weight, it’s full-bodied song.

So they’re worth it, all those expensive, imported, indulgent things that treat the body like a bronze doll being scrubbed, the delicate rounding of the cambers of her limbs with ash and coconut oil. Or rather, like the hours salivating at the oven over the centerpiece at a table; kneading, steaming, tasting, hoping. The rites of adornment. The gluttonous anticipation and sensuality of preparation, and then of waiting to feast. Or be feasted on.

Be slow to submit to devouring. Light every candle first. Sprinkle salt into the bath to sap away draining energy. Dress to undress, and then dress again. Get ready as though every act, every lifting of jewel to ear and tint to lip, is a bead in a rosary to the self.

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.