Author Spotlight: ‘Connecting the Dots’ by Roopa Raman

Having talked about the books I read for months, today I bring you something different. I have had the marvelous opportunity to interview Roopa Raman, the author of Connecting The Dots – a book that she has recently published in memory of her late mother, Mrs. Bhagvathy Raman.

Connecting the Dots…: A step-by-step guide to drawing kolams

Artiste: Prafullamukhi Prabhuvenkatesh, Dublin, CA

I honestly can’t think of a better homage to your parent’s memory. A tribute like this would be doubly delightful to a parent. First, it shows that her child learned the skill well enough to teach it to others. And secondly, this skill is shared with the world by the efforts of her child. 

Coming to the art of Kolam. Kolam is a South Indian art form that has been practiced for generations. This ancient art form has been passed on from mother to daughter by working together to create these classic patterns. In addition to being visually splendid, the creation of the Kolam is a mindful exercise requiring the single-minded focus of the creator. Besides, when collectively prepared by a large group of women, it becomes an opportunity for female bonding over a joint project and further strengthens the sense of community.

Artiste: Prafullamukhi Prabhuvenkatesh, Dublin, CA

My first memories of Kolam are from growing up in Mumbai, living next door to a South Indian family that consistently produced these little masterpieces on their doorstep. Every morning, as I opened my front door to collect the daily newspaper, I would be enthralled by these patterns of graceful curved lines that followed a complex route around a grid of dots. The patterns were at once ornate and precise.

I learned to produce simple Kolam designs myself and spent years trying to perfect the grid of dots that provided the structure of the pattern. Several painstaking attempts gradually advanced my proficiency during those leisurely childhood days. Years passed, and my academic and professional pursuits soon took all my attention. Kolam silently slipped away along with several other hobbies that had lent a creative luster to my girlhood days.

Artiste: Mrs. Godavari Krishnamurthy, Chennai, India

Several years passed and one day, Roopa Raman’s book ‘Connecting the Dots’ showed up on my Facebook feed and at once piqued my attention. Not only did it revive early memories of this beautiful art form, but it also struck a deeper chord with me. For a while now, I have been looking for a way to memorialize some of the things I learned from my parents. By publishing this book, Roopa seemed to be doing precisely that for her mother’s legacy. Upon learning that all proceeds from the sale of this book were to go to a charity, I wasted no time buying the book from Amazon. I promptly began perusing the pages filled with Kolam patterns of increasing complexity.

Artiste: Mrs. Godavari Krishnamurthy, Chennai, India

I experienced a resurfacing of my childhood chagrin stemming from many failed attempts at creating a perfect grid of dots to frame my Kolam. Now, having mulled over this problem afresh, it occurred to me that a spreadsheet would be the ideal tool to create a precise grid of dots. I eagerly created these Excel templates and proceeded to print several copies of these perfect grids of dots. The exact placement of the dots delighted my heart. I began to draw Kolam patterns on paper using the step by step guidelines Roopa’s book provided.

Having spent some time with the book, I felt a tug at the corner of my heart holding memories of drawing Kolams with my childhood friend in Mumbai. I wanted to speak to Roopa and asked her if she would like to be featured on my book blog’s Author Spotlight. Roopa graciously accepted and we had a delightful conversation about this art form. The full videos of this conversation are posted below.

Interview with Roopa Raman – Part 1: My mom and the inspiration behind this book
Interview with Roopa Raman – Part 2: The technique and materials of Kolam

My most memorable part of this conversation was when Roopa described how her mother being a teacher was such a source of pride to her and her siblings. And how her busy mom found ways to keep her children close to her while she worked, by having them help grade homework papers. It reminded me of the days my daughter, during her childhood days, would come to work with me. She was so proud that her mom was an accountant and in charge of paying people their salaries! Such stories of maternal bonding seem uniformly heartwarming, across generations and geographies.

To help my readers who have not seen this art form at all, Roopa’s friends have created a video demonstration of how a Kolam is created using rice flour paste. I hope you enjoy this feature and all the visuals it brings to you. 

Rice Paste Kolam Demonstration by Artiste: Prafullamukhi Prabhuvenkatesh, Dublin, CA

Connecting the Dots…: A step-by-step guide to drawing kolams

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