Tag Archives: tragicomic

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.

The Venus Flytrap: Die Laughing

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The funniest story I have heard in weeks is a tragedy. It’s presented as a true story (but repeated so often and to such effect that it has surely taken on some less than fact-faithful colouring). The storyteller, a magical man named Rane who summons strange things out of drums, knew someone who had an infection on his leg, which somehow landed him in a coma. The leg turned gangrenous, and in his unconscious state the family was told that they could either amputate or wait for him to die. The festering limb was promptly chopped off. The amputee, out of that danger but still unconscious, spent a few more weeks languishing in his scary siesta. And one day, he woke up, all damn cool, cool as the cucumber he had lain like for those weeks, threw his bedsheets off, looked down at his missing leg, and died of shock.

I wish I could tell you this story as deliciously as it was told to me. Suffice to say that of the many, many funny stories the magical drummer shares, this one was by far the most uproarious. It’s not surprising – macabre humour might quite possibly be the best kind. Deep down, we love laughing at our own wretchedness and mortality. And we love pretending to be shocked by our capacity to.

Nothing illustrates this better than the dead baby joke. When I first discovered them on the net, I was horrified. What kind of gruesome mind could make light of such calamity? The images were repugnant – “How do you make a dead baby float? Take your foot off of its head”; “Why is there always hot water at childbirth? In case of a stillbirth, soup.”; “What’s the difference between a baby and a dart-board?
Dart-boards don’t bleed”.

I didn’t realise until I’d read a long list of them that I had kind of been chuckling away, transfixed by the sheer horror of it all and unable to stop reading.

Schadenfreude may be one reason why we’re able to delight in off-colour jokes. Just as watching a violent movie can be a cathartic release, we’re able to explore the sinister aspects of our psyches through macabre humour. That part of us that is capable of evil – and we are all capable of evil – gets a vicarious spin. Once the initial shock wears off, a certain sordid pleasure sets in. It’s the same one you get upon finding that everyone at the table is bitching about the same person you’ve been silently seething about, and you can just stay coy, no longer having to play the gossipmonger. I would never squeeze babies into a bottle just to see how many it would take to make “baby oil”, but in reading the joke, my mind saw it, felt it, and released the need to ever consider the question out of its own volition.

There’s a bit more gallows humour to the story of the man who rose from a coma and died of a heart attack, because of who the story came from. Rane himself had once sustained a head injury, gotten arrested, and was sent for a medical check-up upon his release. Grave results were expected, and his father spent the whole week fearing the very worst. They were, as it happened, truly shocking – Rane was given the all-clear, and his father was so relieved that he died of a heart attack.

We looked around the table at that point and tried to show some sympathy.

The truth is, we all nearly died laughing.

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.