Maths. Gymnastics. Art.

If you walk by a traditional South Indian street early in the morning chances are high that you would spot a lady dotting the front yard with fine white flour, are high !

If you hang around there for a while and look with an ordinary eye, you will see dots emerge in sequence. Dots in proportion. Dots in synchrony and symmetry.

Of course, you can immediately sense that is maths in action. Yes. Math ! 8 dots. 16 dots. right angles. symmetry. Etc etc !

All while the lady, stands up and bends down ! Mega city lifestyles and modern day junk food and leisure lifestyles ensure that such postures befit a great cosmic yogi (at best) or a Russian Gymnast (at the least ). That another story for another time.

In some time, the fine white flour that went into making of the dot slips through the fingers to form simple, straight lines. Straight lines that would look like those drawn with a scale !

In a jiffy the lines become curves. The curves become U turns, with the dot in he middle ! Sharp curves that would get a F1 champ’s adrenalin going.

The lines and curves form a seamless symmetry of art on the floor. A dash here. A dash there. A curve now and then. Suddenly there is a piece of visual delight on the front yard !! Coming to think of it all, to get out of bed at 5.00 AM is something. To get to the courtyard is something else. And then, to alternate between gymnastics and mathematics with ease, is stuff that is beyond me. To do it everyday is super human.

It took me an effort to locate the camera and shoot ! My mom looked bemused and surprised. Initially at my interest, giving me ‘Ah, whats so great about it’ look !

A while later, the household help came in and added some of her own designs and a dash of colour !

I have stayed a mile away from maths. ( Or rather, maths has stayed a mile away from me). And two miles from gymnastics. I always thought so.

Seems i was pretty close ! My mom orchestrates them to do the ballet on the front yard
everyday !

17 thoughts on “Maths. Gymnastics. Art.

  1. Priya says:

    I wud say Math and art rather Gymnastics. Have u tried yourself? Its not an easy task coz it has to be perfect, beautifully aligned and arranged.

    Only u can come up such lovely posts which brightens my memories of those days where u getup early to do these artistic work with full vigor.

  2. (‘Ah, whats so great about it’ look!)
    – Thanks Kavi for sharing old gold subjects. It is very important to know the traditions & culture because without the same we aren’t human maybe. Keep writing.
    Keep sharing.
    India is a curious place

  3. Insignia says:

    Its such a talent to draw different patterns everyday. My mom would religiously draw ‘Kolam’ before the sun came out; as she would say.

    I did learn lot of patterns from her, but could never ever do it with ease – the escape of flour from the fingers, lines, curves….so fast, so gracefully….

    My mom was specific to use rice powder as she said it fed ants; that way feeding 100s if ants was like feeding 100 hungry stomach. It was ‘punyam’. I remember an incident. My mom was sick and couldnt wake up early to draw kolam. She was pestering me, I m a late riser. She wanted it on the front yard before the sun came out.

    She was nagging me, I was sleepy eyed, went out, cleaned the yard and was so lazy to draw an elaborate kolam. So this is what I did. I put a dot and drew a large circle around it, came and slept away.

    Once she noticed what I did, she chided me and went to draw a kolam herself. She talks about it to relatives and friends even today 🙂

  4. Wow! Such a beautiful post! Yes, rice flour is magic! Thanks for sharing…

  5. No wonder things in these households go according to plans. And they remain close knit, each developing but still be part of the greater whole.

  6. He breaks out
    beyond the hills,
    in the gilded rays,
    rapidly pushing
    aside the clouds,
    to look down
    on what
    lies in wait….

    Damp cleaned earth,
    early aromas
    that please
    mixed with
    the heady ones
    of sandal, jasmines,
    burning wicks,
    and filter coffee.

    And he watches,
    enraptured, as the
    lady in a crisp cotton,
    to regulate
    the rice flour dots
    as they slip through
    her thumb and index finger.

    Dots in lines,
    an artistic turn around one,
    figures of eight
    joining others,
    celebrating the
    in a disciplined life….

    A sprinkle of color,
    and the beauty
    of it all
    the Sun,
    trying now
    to hide behind a cloud,
    cooling the garden
    as a slight breeze
    floats by to watch.

    The lady,
    adjusts her glasses,
    holds her back
    and gets up.
    It’s another day,
    another design
    by Him above.

    Connecting the dots
    Following the lines,
    filling color
    where none exists….
    Life must go on.

  7. Neha says:

    I do this too; creating “Rangolis” of different sizes and colours; 16×16 dots and such..and I used to have a few pictures too..will mail those to you..and if I am in mood to show off a bit; then will post those as well 😀

    in fact, this you will see outside a Maharashtrians’ flats too..with haldi-kunku sprinkled over the whiles and looks beautiful..

  8. sujata says:

    That is intricate..and for me who is mathematically as well as artistically challenged, it seems like a tall feat indeed..but the best part of it is that these small tasks of everyday ensured that our previous generation had a daily fitness regimen going and also the discipline of it all..very good indeed.

  9. Jeevan says:

    The way u write it makes great concern about the traditional drawing. Kolam is lacking interest in cities and without space, this is becoming a festival concept these days. There’s a beauty and perfume in performing the kolam.

  10. radha says:

    I just cannot do this. Not even on paper. Though I can do some amount of drawing otherwise. I remember my sisters-in-law did a kolam with rice flour paste and brick powder – in a jiffy – and they are not young either. It gave the house such a festive look.

  11. Aparna says:

    One of my neighbours is from Tamil Nadu. Her designs are not so intricate, but still pretty impressive. And she comes up with a different design every morning. I am pretty inept at anything artistic. So it is more amazing to me. All mothers are good at gymnastics. Have you ever seen a mother balancing a baby on her hips and working at the kitchen, constantly chattering to the baby? Art at its best.

  12. Pearl says:

    Well that’s beautiful! I wonder if I could do this on my sidewalk, perhaps with chalk. For my part of the world, this would be very exotic!


  13. Arundhati says:

    Excellent topic, lovely description and beautiful pics!

    The experts make it seem effortless, but only on sttempting a kolam does one know how tuf it is! I am no good at it 🙂 Whats worse, I use my left hand (Narayana Narayana! 😉 )

  14. Pooh! says:

    I lurk often and decided to comment today – yeah kolams are a lot of math. Math and me do not mix but I seem to have a fascination for all math stuff – kolams, thalams .. sigh..
    Nice kolam and a great post.

    Regarding the gymnastics aspect, very true – I would struggle to get comfortable while I put my design while the experts (regular kolam drawers) would be done in seconds with minimum discomfort

  15. Kavi says:

    Priya : Yes i have. Now, i have a problem with math, standing straight and sitting still. Bent over, its a couple of more miles away ! 🙂

    Glad that the posts leave a smile on your face !

    Hobo : Thanks ! It seems to be good journey ! 🙂

    Insignia : You bet. Its such a big talent indeed ! There are some who stick to rice flour. it adds a certain ‘social value’ connotation as well !

    Ah mothers and their talent ! 🙂

    Naperville Mom : How have you been ?!?! Its been a long time. Thanks for staying on ! 🙂

    The Holy Lama : Am not sure about the close knit and such else. It used to be the case earlier. But now, there is very little time for all of these and the younger generation prefers sticking a kolam on the floor !

    Ugich Konitari : Take a bow ! Take a bow again ! What do i say ! What do i say ! Fantastic! 🙂

    Captures the woman in crisp cotton on words ! Lovely !

    Neha : Sure, send those pictures in. would send it around ! Or maybe you should show it around yourself !


    Sujata : You bet ! These small tasks kept the past generation fit. And yes, they were woven well into daily life so seamlessly that it didnt require a session at the ‘gym’ etc !

    Jeevan : There is a delight, beauty and aroma to the activity ! You are right. It is indeed becoming a ‘rare’ activity these days !

    Radha : My mom has a notebook full of designs. one notebook full ! It give the house such a inviting look, every day morning ! Which is absolutely fantastic

    Aparna : All moms are gymnasts indeed. There is no dispute at that. The olden times had seamless activities to keep their mathematics and sense of geometrical proportion very much in place as well ! 🙂

    Pearl : Ah, the east is east and west is west ! I am sure that there many things that are part of your culture that we will be in awe of too ! 🙂

    Arundhati : Thank you ! And there are so many experts amidst us. Even worse, they dont think of it as big deal ! And you are better off. Attempting it. So what if it was with your left hand ! 🙂

    Pooh : Oh, i am so much in awe. Fascination for maths ! Phew ! 🙂 I have a feeling that the regulars can also do it with their eyes closed ! 🙂

  16. so pretty! And, I like that the household help thinks it important enough to add her own pretty rendering!

  17. Awesome! 🙂
    In general the white is used with red color. Pink color I saw for the first time.
    Nice post! 🙂

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