Friday, February 26, 2016


I am exhausted with the anger and hate I experience each time I think of India! Before my wells of anger fills up again, I am writing about something I liked in my childhood...Rangoli.
You can read up about Rangoli by googling it and get to know Rangoli...if you don't know about it already. Here is MY own personal take on Rangoli. 

To me, the most fascinating thing about Rangoli is that illiterate women from villages, maid servants with limited or no education are such experts at Rangoli designs! I find the Rangoli designs  elaborate and fascinating.  To me, they seem so difficult to make and I marvel that these women, who have not gone to schools, who cannot read or write, can make these designs in a matter of few 3 to 5 minutes.

I do know that the Rangoli is an art passed on from one generation to another like  other things in a society's culture such as recipes, embroidery, proverbs, folk songs, etc. I do know these women  have learnt these designs since childhood from their mothers and grandmothers; I do know that practice makes one perfect; that one can learn these designs if one is interested.  

Many things about the Rangoli saddens and intrigues me. 

I feel sad that these women, who are so skilled in making Rangolis remain under-appreciated ill paid workers who can just about feed themselves with the money they earn. Few employers ever praise the Rangoli designs made daily on the door-steps by the servants. Some employers may not even notice the designs and simply take it for granted. A few servants spontaneously make  elaborate Rangoli designs on festivals and may or may not hear a word of praise from the household they work for.

This is a skill that many of the employers of servants don't possess. Yet, they refuse to acknowledge their maid who does this design daily on their doorstep. What does it cost you to say a word of praise for the art-work done? Don't these employers realize that thanking and praising costs nothing yet makes the maid feel happy and boost her self-esteem?

This is an art which has evolved from it's humble beginnings. Previously it was done with dry powder on the front door step every morning after the front yard was  swept and washed with water. Now you have books with Rangoli designs published;
 There are Rangoli competitions in many cities...However, I have not seen  maid servants participating in these competitions. These competitions  seem to be middle-class affairs where the educated middle-class and the upper class women participate. I doubt if the maids can afford the time and the cost of participating in the competitions. 

I am sad that people have stopped decorating the area at the front door with Rangoli these days in many households for various reasons. Apartment buildings are the new type of residences in Indian cities these days  and so there is no concept of washing the front yard. Also, many have given up old traditions like Rangoli decoration as they are 'modern'. The Rangoli powder is difficult to come by these days...shortage of natural non-renewable resources is the cause maybe?  Evolving of the Rangoli art lead to applying 'permanent' paints in Rangoli designs at the doorstep and so the daily art work of Rangoli with powder stopped. One can even buy Rangoli-design-painted strips of plastic which can be stuck in the places where Rangoli art is needed!  Seives with Rangoli patterns have been created and all one has to do is put the Rangoli powder on the seive, and give a gentle shake and the powder falls through in the form of the design !  Now, you don't need someone to take the Rangoli powder between their thumb & index fingers, put  'dots' of Rangoli powder and connect the dots with the Rangoli powder to create the designs anymore.

One last thing. A professor of neuropsychology had proposed Rangoli design drawing as a remediation task to improve certain neuropsychological deficits in  patients with neuropsychiatric problems. To do the Rangoli design, certain part of the brain is involved and this part could be stimulated and improved by creating or practicing Rangoli designs. I am not sure if she ever got to do this or published the research but this shows how the humble Rangoli art work can kick some ass! 

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