Gained in translation


It was late in the afternoon last weekend, and I was on a video call with my sister. The call was a busy one, with my niece and nephew frequently popping their heads into the video frame to talk to me. Likewise, my kids also walked in and out of the call, catching up with their cousins and watching my baby niece gurgle in delight.

My sister suddenly exclaimed, “Hey, do you know what Amma is busy with these days?” She continued excitedly, “…She is translating your blogs into our mother tongue.”

I felt an inexplicable joy. Later in the day, I called my mom. Her enthusiasm was contagious as she read out the articles in our beautiful mother tongue, Tamil. She had chosen her words and sentences so carefully and had chiseled them to perfection.

Over the last five years of my blogging, my mom had always felt unhappy that she had not been able to access my blogs and read them as often as she would have liked.

When the lockdown began, she decided to catch up and started reading the blogs. The idea to translate the blogs into Tamil struck her one morning, and there was no looking back after that.

Now, she writes the final draft for one blog and a rough draft for another each day. And whenever we talk on the phone, she reads them out to me, and I can sense her excitement.

Courtesy – pixabay from http://www.pexels.com

A writer’s work derives meaning only when his or her work connects with her readers. Whenever my blogging friends or social media friends post comments or likes on my blog, I feel happy and thrilled.

But when my mom reads out her translations, I feel a different kind of joy, a kind of contentment. I cherish these afternoon calls, when we exchange ideas on writing and how the different words and sentences in each blog sound in both languages.

I feel deeply grateful to my parents for encouraging me to read and write, for encouraging me to appreciate life’s simple moments. Thank you Amma and Dad for this precious gift.

Connecting the dots


In many South Indian homes, the day begins when the lady of the house goes to her courtyard or front porch, washes it with water, and draws a kolam, which is artwork that usually uses dots. These dots are connected together, in many ways, to create visual treats.

Kolams are usually drawn free hand, with rice flour. The rice flour is gripped between the thumb and the pointer finger. As the hand makes the required movement, the rice flour is dropped at an even pace! And lo! In less than three minutes a beautiful kolam is ready.

When we were children, we took turns to draw the kolam every morning. As the first rays of the sun fell on our little town, one of us would take a pail of water, and wash the area around the threshold of the house. With a broom made of sticks, we would sweep the yard and remove all excess water. Then, we would get the bowl with the rice flour and start drawing the kolam.

We were usually taught these basic designs by our grandmoms or aunts or moms. As with any new art form, the kolams we created were distended and uneven, with fat lines. With practice, we got better.

We were given free rein to draw any kolam we wanted.

Starting off with 2 x 2 dot matrices, we moved on to 3 x 3, 4 x 4….and then 10 x 10, and to other shapes like triangles and circles!

Some of the designs are so intricate that they require a lot of concentration- one wrong move, and the whole kolam needed to be reworked!

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

The satisfaction from learning and completing a kolam was immense.

The kolam is usually drawn as a sign of welcome to visitors, and also to bring prosperity to the home.

Kolams are also believed to have provided food to little birds and ants, so that they did not have to go too far away in search of food.

There are special kolam designs for festivals that we celebrate. These kolams are usually made with liquid rice flour. I put special kolams at home for every festival!

In the city of Chennai in India, there is a kolam competition every year, in the month of marghazhi in the Tamil calendar, which falls between 15 Dec and 15 January. People participate enthusiastically; and the whole street reverberates with creativity and excitement!

Sharing two pictures of this year’s competition that were shared by my cousin and my friend.

Wedding Kolams are elaborate, and usually every home has an aunt or grandma, who excels at wedding kolams. Such kolams can be nearly 3 feet in diametre. It is back breaking work for the woman who usually draws the kolam.

Courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

When my mind wanders far away, and my hands start doodling, it is mostly kolam patterns that I end up drawing. Last night, I did precisely that!

My kolam doodles from last night…the inspiration for this post!

Kolams are much like our lives. There are dots and lines. Dots are like the important milestones or stages in our lives. The lines represent our journey. Sometimes life is smooth, sometimes life gets knotted and complicated, sometimes all the dots connect beautifully, and then life is perfect!