Tag Archives: birthday

The Venus Flytrap: The Unbirthday

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In January, I had a deep weep session – in anticipation of the end of July. The event I was dreading was an annual affair that I had never before not looked forward to, or celebrated, or otherwise been excited by. Yet there I was, seven months from it and already filled with an unprecedented sense of panic.

My unamused older friends thought this was way too much drama to turn, as one of them put it, one year older in puppy years. Only, through the runny mascara-streaked lenses of my anxiety and alarm, it was very clear to me that it was people years I was dealing with. And 25 in people years was an absolute shock.

Leos can’t help but announce their birthdays. Birthdays combine the best of the famously leonine generousity and the equally famous leonine narcissism: stroke my ego, and I shall smother you with really excellent cake. So I did announce it. Variously, I made passive-aggressive statements about aging disgracefully and how any visiting wise men were welcome to bringeth Stolichnaya from the East, Sampoerna from the East Indies and… something from Easter Island (the clever quip got quashed by the questionable lack of cheer). And just as I do every year, I bought myself way too many beautiful things, “for my birthday” – only this time I was simply channeling my distress into retail therapy, not just exploiting a damn good excuse to the fullest. Especially reproachable behaviour considering that since I spent the day itself holed up at home writing, and then indulged a most unglamourous KFC craving, none of those accouterments saw the light of (birth)day anyway.

But that’s okay. The only thing better than being the birthday girl is being the unbirthday girl.

An unbirthday party is where Alice met the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse in Wonderland. An unbirthday party was what I had, the first one a week ahead of the big day, when a couple of friends down the coastline whom I had definitely spent some time wandering in rabbit holes with called up one morning and said, “We’re half an hour to Mahabs. Have lunch with us.” You could say I am presently in the midst of an unbirthday series.

I could bore you at length about just why hitting 25 had me so stressed, but as I discovered between that curveball realization in January and my birthday, this was textbook quarter-life crisis behaviour. Only, being an overachiever, I ran smack into it five whole years before it was due. Many told me they’d experienced it themselves before turning thirty; it coincides with what in astrology is called the Saturn Return (yup, in Western astrology as in Tamil curses, Saturn is one and the same). Most also said that a sequence of Mad Tea Parties was the only known remedy.

Knowing all of this was right on track did make me feel a little better. I’m even quite cool about what is supposed to be the real bugaboo, the big three oh, considering that I seem to have mostly exhausted my quota of quarter-life angst. Besides, as one hedonist friend put it, if there’s any number that people who frequent Mad Tea Parties should worry about, it’s 27 (just ask Janis or Jimi). Which is… oh oh.

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.

Poem: Frida to Sharanya

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This is my favourite photo of Frida.

By the time this photograph was taken in 1938, Frida had mastered the art of the unwavering gaze, not to mention the projection of masculinity. The Trotsky and Cristina affairs that wreaked havoc on her marriage had happened; she was in the midst of her first solo exhibition in New York, and would both go to France at the invitation of the Bretons and get divorced the following year. In short, she knew by this time very well who she was and what she wanted. But here she appears vulnerable, unposed, astonishingly feminine. This is why it is my favourite photo of her. Out of the many I have seen (I have dozens more photographs to update that site with, and hope to find the time to do so soon), few have captured her this way. It is as though Julien Levy clicked his camera at the very moment the persona was dropped. It is as though he unmasked a woman famous for the ways she brutally unmasked herself.

I wrote this some time back, and read it at the Viva La Vida reading on Frida’s 101st birthday. Today was my 23rd birthday, and I thought I would share it now. It was inspired by her letters.

FRIDA TO SHARANYA

Sleep wherever is most convenient for you.
Whoever and whatever is left in the morning,
take home. Be kind. All the world is yours for
the taking, long as you know that your little heart is
theirs for the breaking. Leave lipstick on their
china and on your letters. Make sure they know
that you’re a mariposa, blue as copper sulphate,
or blue as the sea, blue as a baby stilled too soon,
darling wench, and you never really intend to leave.
Set love free like a boat with neither oars nor anchors.
Trust it. Don’t trust yourself. Accept every familiar
that comes, even if one happens to be a goat. Forgive
less of people. Remember that things come in triptychs.
Be magnificent, like Coatlicue. You only owe it to me,
but break a mirror now and then, if you can afford it.
Kiss as much as you want to, and as few. Be difficult.
It will make you more desirable. If it will help you to
let him go, cut off your hands. They will grow back.
You don’t need them. You don’t need him. The older
you grow, the more you will amputate. Dance on stumps
if you have to, but don’t stop. Wear one item of red
every Wednesday and when death comes for you,
you will go as his bride. Burn every bridge you ever
built, and build as many as you possibly can. The one
that takes you home will be the last one standing.
Sing over the bones. Go slow.
Don’t forget me.