Home Inspiration A labor of love

A labor of love

by Vidya Sury August 14, 2016 15 comments
Vidya Sury Personal Responsibility Kolamavu

She doesn’t talk much. She has been occupying that same spot for at least 20 years now. Other street vendors in the area respect it as her space.

She works hard. Breaking limestone is really tough work and she cannot afford to be distracted while she works. She works with her bare hands. When I suggested she at least cover them with plastic, she just laughed, as if to say, what do you know?

Why does she break limestone?

To make the pristine white powder used to make designs outside the front door, of homes and temples.

She is involved, she’s committed and of course she works with a smile. She was too shy to face the camera when I clicked her photo.

The tin you see in front of her? She fills that with the powder. The powder is dried thoroughly in the sun before it is sold very cheap to buyers. Rs.1.00 for a measure – the size of a large coffee mug. Rs.1 is not even a cent. Can you imagine how much she has to sell before she makes enough for a meal?

Yet she keeps at her job. Day after day. Maybe she sells some of it to shops that, in turn, sell them. Many grocery stores stock it.

It is difficult and I think, hazardous work, but she turns up every single day. She takes pride in her work.

It is a labor of love

Her tools consist of the three tins, a bottle of water, a bag of limestone, a plastic sheet to spread it on, the measuring cup.

She works all day, taking a break to have her lunch and chat with the other street vendors.

I think we could all learn something from her.

WomensDay Vidya Sury maketihappen

The finished product she sells – the white powder is free-flowing and looks pure white. It makes beautiful designs.

In my mother tongue, Tamil, we call these designs Kolam (koe-lum). It is also called “rangoli”. It is standard practice in our tradition to wash the front doorstep and the space in front of it each morning (and evening) and draw a “kolam”. A lamp is also lit and placed in the corner of the doorway. This is believed to bring prosperity, attracting the goddess of wealth, Lakshmi, into the house. Everyone in the street competed with each other to make their kolam more beautiful, more complicated than the other. Then, in the evening, it would all be washed off so a fresh one could take its place.

These days, of course, we simply stick a sticker kolam that stays put in front of our door. Far easier. Many people make the kolam every morning. Some of us – and that includes me – do an elaborate one only on festival days. See the white outlines? That’s the white powder the lady’s making.

Touched by Love Vidya Sury

Touched by Love Vidya Sury 4

Touched by Love Vidya Sury 6

Kolams are interesting and there is a lot of significance attached to it. I will dedicate a separate post to this topic. For now, suffice it to say that it breaks my heart that so much time is spent on an elaborate design, only to be washed away. But let’s look at the silver lining. If they weren’t, then how would people like this lady do any business?

I am linking up with Unknown Mami for Sundays In My City, a fun bloghop that lets me travel the world via my keyboard.

I am also linking up with Parul of Happiness and Food for the #WomenAtWork bloghop, which happens on the first Sunday, every month.

I am also, also joining Mackenzie Glanville

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My Inner Chick August 14, 2016 at 11:54 pm

She is an inspiration to all of us.

As you are, my dear Vidya.

Love you more than fluffy clouds floating across the morning sky. xx

Molly August 15, 2016 at 4:41 am

I love how she responded when you mentioned covered her hands like it was a completely crazy suggestion


Parul Thakur August 15, 2016 at 10:03 am

That’s indeed a lot of labor with a lot of love. The same love goes to decorate houses every single day. Thank you for sharing her story, Vidya. It warms my heart to see how much women do for how little yet their work feeds in to the economic cycle.
Also thank you so much for linking. This made me so happy 🙂
Parul Thakur recently posted…#WomenAtWork – A saleswoman

Mother of 3 August 15, 2016 at 5:47 pm

What an labor of love; those designs are beautiful!
Mother of 3 recently posted…Art Project #33; Sun Art

Vidya Sury August 15, 2016 at 5:59 pm

Thank you! ♥ I loved your sun art project and am looking forward to looking at the others, too! 🙂
Vidya Sury recently posted…A labor of love

Marian Allen August 16, 2016 at 3:42 am

I remember reading that the Dalai Lama was in a large city with some of his monks, who were making a huge sand painting on the street. Before they could finish, some toughs scuffed it all up. The Dali Lama just laughed and said, “When we finish the painting, we wash it away to illustrate the transience of all things. They made our point for us!”

Thank you for sharing the lady with us. What a wonderful woman!
Marian Allen recently posted…The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe #BookReview

Bellybytes August 16, 2016 at 6:08 am

Vidya I learnt a lot from this post- how to repurpose an old post and how to link up with three blog hops thus increasing your reach.
But more importantly Ilearnt that hard work is behind everything beautiful. I never realised rangoli was made with limestone powder. I thought it was marble dust . Also I thought Kolan was made with rice flour paste….I love these designs and have taught my daughters how to make simple designs…
Bellybytes recently posted…Free write #MondayMusings

upasna August 16, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Sometimes I really wonder- How one can do the same thing for the lifetime and find happiness in the same. Hats off to all of them.
upasna recently posted…Why I regret what I cannot control now?

Birgit August 16, 2016 at 7:48 pm

I bet this lady knows, by the feel with her hands, when the limestone is done. She goes as much by feel as by sight so gloves wouldn’t work but I wonder about her health and breathing this in. I think of the kids..kids…25 years and more, who are spoiled and wouldn’t even think about doing this for a living. She needs a medal where they need a kick in the butt. These images are so beautiful and I bet the colours and designs all mean something. I will look forward to your post about this.
Birgit recently posted…Card Crazy! No Not Really…well, Maybe

Purba Chakraborty August 16, 2016 at 11:27 pm

Such a beautiful post!
Respect for the woman and thanks to you for sharing her story with us 🙂

Kim Orr August 17, 2016 at 1:16 am

Sorry! So many typos in the other post. Here is a corrected version:
How beautiful Vidya — your writing reflects the wisdom of your name! Kolams reflect the wonderful cycle of creation, preservation, and dissolution that are the threads of life.
There is great beauty those risings and fallings away — even great beauty as your heart breaks when you are aware of the washing away. And great beauty in the work of those who make that possible — like the lady you write about. Thank you for this post!

Mackenzie Glanville August 21, 2016 at 4:05 pm

amazing woman as are you, truly inspirational #mg

Asha August 26, 2016 at 9:58 pm

So much painstaking effort so lovingly put indeed. Teaches us a thing or two. Beautiful Kolams !
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Vidya Sury August 28, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Thank you Asha. I love doing the Kolams. Quite therapeutic, really. I remember warm summer afternoons spent at home, creating our own designs with chalk on our redoxide floor. 🙂 That lady is an inspiration!
Vidya Sury recently posted…Turn down the volume, unplug, listen

Vasantha Vivek August 30, 2016 at 10:46 am

Lovely post, Vidya !!! My amma is big lover of kolams and she has a great fan circle for her kolams too … She would say ” Kolam is my yoga”. Very true words. It’s really a therapy to her helping to forget her troubles and hardships. Thanks for sharing this post of an inspiring lady!!!
Vasantha Vivek recently posted…How To Have A Healthy Life – Simple Tips For Healthy Family


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