It all started with an invitation to watch the kolam making in the lane of the extremely popular canteen called “Mami Tiffen stall” in Mylapore. During the sacred month of Margazhi the entrance of the traditional restaurant in Chennai sparkles with numerous floor drawings as everywhere else in the neighbourhood and in Tamil-Nadu.
Around 10 PM after the canteen closes, a team led by Anantha Valli and Latha are transforming the surroundings of the place. A few kitchen assistants converted into helpers, will lend a hand to the women of the house. At first, they clean thoroughly the steps and part of the lane with large buckets of water. The ritual of kolam always starts with the drawing of six parallel lines on the edges of the stairs as to appeal to the benevolence of the divine and prevent evil influences from entering the restaurant.
Finally, the women start drawing while the boys fill up the spaces with coloured powders, or enhance certain lines with red oxide called kavi. They hurry up as to morrow morning by 6 o’clock the first customers arrive and the kolam will be there to welcome them. Latha and Anantha Valli are talented artists. Their expert hands draw effortlessly double lines which flow through their fingers to outline one or several large-sized padi kolam.
Side by side, Latha, her sister-in-law starts drawing too. Both women have learned the double lines from their mother-in-law, letting lines and shapes express themselves nonchalantly, and blossom generously in a myriad of effortless patterns.