Vanilla Children Place is one of the few centres in the city that has organised a weeklong programme for Madras Week. Yifat, who runs the place, has always been very enthusiastic in putting up something during the celebrations. Even though she was not in town when plans were on to enlist support, Deepa came forward to take up the responsibility of organising events. And she managed to put together quite a list – from talks on wildlife and education in the city to drawing and kolam sessions, to traditional games and storytelling.
I dropped by to have a look at the kolam workshop conducted by Sindhu Suresh. A few words about Sindhu… when I first called her, she was holidaying in Thiruvananthapuram. It was probably a wrong time to call and talk about Madras Day and Madras Week. But, sporting as ever, she readily agreed to take time off (she works in the IT industry and, as I found out later, doesn’t really fancy being called during work hours) and said she’d get in once she returned. And the first message I received from her after she got back was, “When are we meeting today?” And wasn’t I pleasantly surprised! We met at Vanilla that afternoon – despite her first day in office after a long break – and that was how the kolam workshop took shape.
Born in Thiruvananthapuram, Sindhu grew up in Pollachi before completing her studies in Coimbatore and eventually coming to Madras in the 1980s. It was in Pollachi that she picked up the art of making kolams, from her neighbours. She had a notebook, she says, and on that she would jot down an interesting kolam pattern or two she had seen somewhere. Well, Sindhu paints as well, on canvas and on glass, decorative and Madhubani paintings mainly.
The kolam workshop saw the children all excited and almost impatient to lay their hands on the powder. They were completely engrossed in shaping patterns on hard boards, vying with one another to see who did better. The competitive spirit always works well and the result: marvellously drawn, coloured kolam patterns that the children in the end took back home. There were excited mothers, too, and some of them were seen handling the powder and glue themselves. Yifat was keen to know about how such intricate patterns are drawn so easily by women and children in Tamil Nadu. She was shown a chart displaying a certain formula to the patterns. Overall, an interesting two hours for young and old alike.