Tag Archives: humor

The Venus Flytrap: Old Tricks of the New Age

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“You need to fully inculcate your complete maternal self,” he said, between mouthfuls of a fine continental spread. “You need to nurture and give and embrace your true nature.” He paused, significantly, and swallowed. “This just came to me, a message to help you on this journey: start by buying me breakfast. Providing nourishment will allow you to reconnect with yourself.”

We were at The Park. I could have bought breakfast or I could have posted bail.

Well, I should have known better then than to set up an appointment with a holistic healer whose business card read: “Tarot, Hypnotism, Arts Therapy and African Voodoo”. Now, after a couple of years’ worth of questing and questioning, I do. Self-styled spiritualists of the small-time variety are common, ineffective and quite hilarious. The thing about surviving all of that existential anguish is that you’ll have very few tangible takeaways you can talk about afterwards – except the fun anecdotes you’ve collected from those who claimed to have answers for it.

One of my other favourites was the breathing exercise teacher who took a rather unsavoury interest in my toilet habits. “Did you oil your rectum today?” she asked each time I saw her. Taking my uncomfortable expression to be mere stupidity, she would then proceed to gesticulate, in detail, exactly how I ought to do this. I suppose I ought to be thankful that she didn’t take it upon herself to offer a comprehensive demonstration. I can’t say I felt the same hesitation toward the hot chakra cleanser, though.

Which brings me to: why was I prescribed ashwagandha for my insomnia without being informed that it was also the great Indian aphrodisiac? Between the hours I was keeping and the touted potency of that herb, I could have turned into some rampaging nocturnal succubus.

Which I avoided, I hasten to add, by virtue of developing an intense obsession with transcendental mysticism and the fine sciences of auguring the future through the study of the feng shui of fridge contents and the Facebook newsfeed. In fact, I learned during this period that I am so intensely obsessive because I am a Scorpio Rising, that too born in the anaretic degree. This also makes me vindictive, envious, secretive and paranoid. Now you know why I’m so popular.

All of this came, of course, thanks to my involvement with a self-professed visionary. She interpreted my dreams (“To dream of a cat indicates a craving for cheese”), she analysed my psychosomatic conditions (“A pain in the ass indicates grief over betrayal – or an unoiled rectum”) and ran zodiac compatibility tests on my suitors (“Oh what’s a little BO with such a spectacular Mars-Jupiter trine?”). She was as efficient as predictive text on a cellphone. She was oracle and Oprah combined. It all toppled like a house of archangel cards when, in the process of severing my auric cords to malevolent influences from my past, she accidentally singed my eyebrows. Astrally.

“Shame about the eyebrow – now how will you know where to tap to activate your acupressure points?” she said.

I know. Even excusing a little hyperbole, I should be a hardcore cynic by now. But some people are just incorrigible (like Scorpionic types). I’ve just learned that divinity doesn’t come neatly packaged. Aromatherapy oils, though, still do.

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.

The Venus Flytrap: The Flower Power Party Guide

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Everybody knows that spouses come to resemble each other, and if you’ve ever been bored on the Internet you’ve probably also seen that animals and the people who keep them share some similarities (or perhaps just a hairdresser). One expert usefully asserted that you could spot a hound owner from a mile away because they “look very doggy”.

But for company that neither vocalizes nor poops, you can’t go wrong with plants – and I have a feeling there’s a kind of foliage just for you. Recently, nodding obsequiously through a particularly boring conversation, I spaced out and thought of how the whiskers this woman was sprouting, elegant and sporadic as they were, were not unlike the bristles of a black bat flower.

Rewarded with a great solo party trick after years of deep poetic thoughts about trees and flowers, I suddenly enjoyed looking around the room. There were the clusters of weeds, the sycophants, all different variants: pretty and harmless dandelions, downright irksome poison ivy, and the honestly rather useful St. John’s wort and cannabis. The last one might have been more than a metaphorical sighting. Not that I could tell.

And that one over there – she surely grows bonsai; her soul itself seems corseted in a trellis. A little sad, a little less interesting than the bougainvillea and the pepper vines snaking their papery petals and heart-shaped leaves along the lengths of supportive spines. Not quite sycophants, those, just Sitas.

Hello, night-blooming cereus – why are you never as fun during the day? And over there’s a teetotaler, but you can’t be condescending to a Rose of Jericho, not when his sense of humour is even drier than his drought.

The cacti are actually a lot of fun: they’re a little prickly at first, but they really know how to hold their liquids. Anyone who vomits qualifies as a corpse flower, but only if they’re within smelling distance (otherwise, they may just be a different sort of plant entirely: the factory kind). Speaking of which – it’s also much easier to ignore the inebriated idiot taking off his shirt if you think of him as a deciduous tree.

Thankfully, though, there are other kinds: the banyan around whom the party inevitably congregates, the resilient olives (sometimes symbolically holding martinis) and maybe an ancient bristlecone pine or sequoia, still living it up and sharing everything they’ve seen along the way.

Including perhaps – through we’ll try not to stare – the cute little hothouse flower accidentally flashing her Georgia O’Keefe. A blush of shy mimosa pudicae, meanwhile, curl up and hide for shame.

I don’t know about you, but I always start the evening off as a narcissus. Vanity trumps misanthropy every time. Before the bloom wears off the rose, though, I’m preening with the lot of them. Sometimes I even get mistaken for celebrity flora, the kind mentioned in holy texts for example: sagacious bodhi trees and Lebanon cedars. I’m able to hang around only so long as they don’t realize that my own superstar qualities are fictional, and then I’m booted out along with the Faraway Tree and the Two Trees of Valinor.

And then there I’ll be, sulking and swilling something in the corner (and you know what my ultimate totem plant would have to be): trap-shut, thorny, digesting my findings.

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.

The Venus Flytrap: Dropping Names

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Recently, a friend dropped me a note under a different name from the one I’d known him by for eleven years. I raised one culture-mulcher highbrow eyebrow at his new moniker and immediately called him out on it. As expected, the change had been a result of his moving to Australia, where – he said – his new buddies had rechristened him. I snorted privately and exhorted publicly: “Be proud of your polysyllabic name! Besides, Bobby doesn’t rhyme with Banana (while your real name does)”. Rhyme is important to me – in case I ever have to write a sonnet for an epitaph, I don’t want my options to be limited to hobby, lobby and (ahem) snobby. Banana, cabana and Hannah Montana lend themselves much better to eulogizing.

He had changed his name on all his social networking profiles, chat and email programmes. I found this annoying and somewhat regressive, but he insisted that letting one’s friends call you by nicknames is sweet. “Sure,” I acceded. “But you don’t see me changing my name to Ammamma Kitty”.

At this juncture I will confess to the following: I have a different legal name for reasons you can exaggerate in your imagination, once published an article under a pseudonym inspired by an alter-ego inspired by a plush toy, and yes, one of my friends calls me Ammamma. Many others do call me variations of Kitty (though not, you monkeys, the obvious synonym). Still, to my mind, none of these things are rooted in embarrassment, which is how I saw the friend-henceforth-known-as-Bobby’s choice. There is a long history of Asian people assimilating by taking on Western names – how many Tripurasundaris have become Tinas, and how many Mei Lings, Marilyns? Rueful, I considered how Bobby rhymed with Robby, a diminutive – in every sense – of Rabindranath.

No, the whole thing made me want to commit many cliché reactionary acts, like politicizing my sloth as a bed-in, wearing homespun khadi, piercing my other nostril and rereading Spivak (she of the ex-husband’s name). I was too lazy for all of this, though, and had evening plans that interfered with the bed-in, so I settled for clicking the “like” button on someone else’s snarky post to “Bobby P.” asking when he was going to cut a record and start a fragrance line. The view from my high horse was pretty great.

Of course, I was duly chastised. Later that day, I went out with an expat friend. We were the last to arrive, and a group of people I hadn’t met before were already there. “Hey everybody,” said my friend cheerily, and extended a hand in my direction. “This is Ranya”.

Then she turned to me and said, just as cheerily, “I’m so glad you texted earlier, because I spent ages online trying to remember how to pronounce your full name, but on my phone I have the ‘version for dummies’ saved!”. This was true. Ranya was the nickname I hadn’t needed to bring back to India, cases of extreme closeness or extreme mangling notwithstanding. Someone had given it to me back in school, when P. Diddy was still Puff (and still cool), Bobby still had a name that rhymed with Banana, and I – well, I was Ranya.

I did, however, at least already have one nostril pierced by then.

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.

The Venus Flytrap: The Unbearable Lightness of Peeing

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Any woman who says she doesn’t have penis envy hasn’t needed to pee on a twelve hour journey, holding it in for three hours while the bus stops at random intervals for jolly, jaunty men to hop off and on, sparing nary a thought for the sheer luxury that is projectile peeing. Perching in a twist on my bunk on the overnighter, I could see them through the bus’ front windows, holding up the vehicle, unapologetically doing their business against bushes and cliffs and dividers in the full glare of the headlights. Also visible were the men huddled in the appropriately-dubbed cockpit, doing other things I longed to but could not, for the same reasons I was holding it in: smoking, chatting with the bus driver, enjoying bearing down on smaller vehicles, not thinking about their bladders at all.

Oh to be a man in this country and mark my territory all along its many roads. I would twirl my moustache all day long, hoist my lungi up and tuck it in before kicking ass (habitually), and pee and pee and pee (happily but not hands-free)… I would be a caricature. I would date women disproportionately more attractive than me. I would smell of Axe and beer farts. Most of all, I wouldn’t be writhing on a long bus ride fantasizing in such unfeminist ways.

When these thoughts stopped amusing me, and my slight discomfort turned to serious difficulty, I took to prayer. I prayed that a rest stop with a ladies’ loo would materialize on the highway in five minutes or less (“see God, I asked for five minutes and not two because I am patient. Also kind and honest, present blackmail and manipulation notwithstanding, so pretty please?”). I prayed that even if it was a squatting toilet I wouldn’t complain. I prayed that even if there was no soap I wouldn’t complain (much). I prayed that even if there was no water I would jiggle and bear it and wouldn’t complain (maybe just a little). And I prayed, for once, that it would not start raining. Nothing like desperation to bring the old religiousity out. Oh my gods and assorted divinities, how I prayed. And holy cow and sweet baby Krishna – how big is this country anyway, and yet how infrequently punctuated by potties?

After the prayers came the paranoia. I was in physical pain by then. This was it – lifelong kidney damage! I would need surgery! I would have to carry my execratory system around in a bag! My kegels were surely in a state of permanent sclerosis! I would DIE because of a toilet deficiency! Fortunately, as the offspring of physicians, I did not succumb to visions of pee coming out of my eyeballs, but I think there might have been a moment or two when I might have cried a little. You know, a wee bit.

But this is also the story of the most satisfying pee of my life. The bus stopped. I jumped and ran as fast as crossed legs could take me. And there was water. And soap. And a toilet seat. Empty of bladder, full of relief, I climbed back on the bus and fell into a happy sleep, dreaming of an India of extraordinary cool and urinary equality.

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.

The Venus Flytrap: Son of a Sun

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Dear Sun God (aka Papa),

I hope you don’t mind if I hang around a bit more after my daily prayers today. After all, it’s not like you have very much to do. There’s a couple of things I’d like to talk to you about. I’ll pause for a minute and see if there’s an apocalypse – if there is, I’ll take that as a no.

Oh good. You’re still shining, the birds are still singing, and my poor mortal feet are still earthbound. Also, kind of scorched (temperature check, please?).

You know, I realise that most people would consider themselves lucky to not have a daddy who gives them a complex and messes with their complexion. But I’m aware that being the son of the sun has its perks. Like bragging rights (not that anyone believes me or anything, but I noticed the droughts in Hastinapura, so thanks Pops). And the perpetually radiant glow of my skin, and positively smouldering good looks. Also, not to forget glory, splendour and hypersensitive poetesses composing verses in my name thousands of years from now and all that.

Still, don’t get me wrong – but waiting around for posthumous vindication is a bit of a drag. I’m not asking you to, you know, revolve around me or anything. But I figured that since you’re the source of all life, and we in Bharat are really into procreation, and somewhere down the line you might “inspire” another divine birth or two, it might be good to offer a few suggestions for future consideration.

Firstly, do you need to dispel darkness quite so often? Barely a night goes by before you pop out again. This constant presence stuff is a bit hard to take. Don’t glare like that. Lighten up, man. Look on the bright side: it’s not like I’m immortal or something. No sweat.

I mean, to tell you the truth, in these times of religion and rampant slaughter, it might have been nice to have been a girl instead. Less bloody. Like that Draupadi chick – though I guess she kind of overcompensates for the lack of gore. Talk about a monopoly on the menfolk! (By the way, she thinks you’re hot. Particularly this year). Plus, you would have given me a metal bra, I suppose. All I’d have to do to get rid of my enemies would be to sit behind them on a nervous horse.

And – ah, father, this is the worse of it – this armour is awfully spiffy and all that. Good for blinding people using your reflection, finger-drumming and paper frottage with crayons (love the detail work!). But I don’t know how else to say it – it’s kind of hard to… hug other people. I’m also a little bit worried about whether or not I have any nipples, not having ever seen them.

Also, I would really like to change my earrings from time to time. They itch.

If you have any ideas how I can rescue my existence from such epic boredom and irritation, please do illuminate me.

I send you my warmest. Well, the warmest I can muster. If you feel a cold patch somewhere on your vast corpus, consider it a dart of love from your long lost, most devoted and extremely eclipsed son.

Yours,

Karna

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.

The Venus Flytrap: Surviving Venus Retrograde For Dummies

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Venus, my beloved cosmologically-savvy friends tell me, is in retrograde. Which means that it looks like it’s moving backwards in the heavens (or in the regions beyond the gravitational influence of the earth, if you’re a soulless skeptic), but it isn’t. Kind of like when your columnist appears to be gossiping and procrastinating on Gtalk, but isn’t – I assure you she is having really incisive conversations plumbing the depths of the human psyche, letting her findings percolate, deciding on an appropriate sociocultural context, then spending several hours editing the resulting treatise apropos the word limit, all to entertain you for four minutes over Saturday morning hangover coffee.

So Venus is not moving but she looks like she is. This means your relationships, creative pursuits, travel plans, business investments and sartorial choices are all liable to be royally screwed for a six week period that occurs every year and a half. As I am a penniless celibate sociopathic manquée prone to hanging ostrich feathers from my septum piercing, I can’t really tell the difference. My royal screwage is probably congenital.

You, however, may see Venus backtrack blazingly through your life, but thanks to my vast expertise in astrological spam mail and related Facebook applications, I’d be delighted to guide your remaining two weeks of disasters in all spheres relating to love, lust and luxury. Yes, this retrograde cycle is almost over, and if you’re not also finished by then, cross my palm with silver. Except it loses colour in this abominable weather, so I’d prefer gold.

A strikingly obvious feature of Venusian retrograde is when former flames make an appearance into your thoughts, or your life itself. Take time then to reminisce about the instances they dressed better than you, beat you at Scrabble or set fire to your cat, because you may be currently extra liable to deluded nostalgia. Please note however that if your ex’s reappearance in your life happens while you have coincidentally set up shop in their neightbourhood, this is not a planetary effect. It merely means that you are a stalker with a business strategy. That’s not karmical, just comical.

Avoid beauty procedures. Plastic surgery, radical haircuts and the like are obvious taboos, but may I recommend adding showering to the list? It will avert suitors, and new alliances formed at this time tend to be star-crossed anyway. If you’re tempted to invest in the stock market, don’t. My reasons aren’t that romantic. It’s called an economic crisis. If you need an astrologer to tell you that, remember that I am worth every gold ingot (per minute, taxes extra). Don’t travel – you may cause envy in your astrologer. If you find yourself stagnating on your magnum opus, join the rest of us brilliant tortured types at the bar. You may meet someone suitably inspiring. Just don’t propose marriage. Venus is on rewind, and you’re probably just on rebound.

When Venus goes direct in the middle of April, trees should flower, birds should get operatic and damsels should have frequent wardrobe malfunctions near you. Provided you’ll have heeded my advice, very little should interrupt your bliss – except for Mercury going retrograde three weeks later. Then, however, I can’t help you. Merc rules communication, and you may find that your correspondences to me remain mysteriously unacknowledged – I mean, undelivered. I assure you that such silence is a purely cosmological phenomenon and has nothing to do with your hourly messages to me during Venus retrograde. Or the paanwalla pushcart parked near my house. In such cases, let me just say that all my Venus Flytraps stay firmly zipped.

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.