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Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 in Ethnic stories | 3 comments

Short story: The Perfect Gender, The Perfect Kolam

canstockphoto13953187I sprinkle water. The droplets darken the soil in front of my house.

As my wet hands dig into the rice flour, a dog barks somewhere in the distance. Saraswati akka’s new pomeranian answers its call.  I take a pinch of the flour and drop it on the floor- repeating at regular distances the blobs of white.

I’m new at this. The Euclidian figures amma used to draw had always fascinated me. But the arcs are not perfect.

This is irritating- to think that I’m incapable of doing something that she used to. My anklet feels odd- it sits on my tanned legs with a certain degree of incongruence- a meaningful logo for me, riveting to a few.

The door opposite opens and the proud pomeranian-owner comes out with a katori and new ideas for a kolam. Her eyes find me and I feel tangled in her ire – trying desperately to come undone. She stares with disgust at my light blue saree and the jasmines in my hair. But this is nothing new.

The aravanis are used to this – this feeling of not belonging.

(Note: Transgenders are known as Aravanis in Tamil Nadu, India. Kolams are patterns made with rice flour: Kolam)


Bhavya Viswarajan is an aspiring writer and literature student from India.

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  1. An intriguing piece of writing. I like the way you use language, and I especially appreciated the phrase, ‘tangled in her ire’. One minor criticism – the word ‘symbol’ might be better than ‘logo’ to describe the anklet.

    Also, when you write in English, unless your work is only published in India, you’re writing for an international audience, and you can’t assume that any Hindi/Tamil words will be understood by readers outside India.

    Ideally, rather than adding explanatory footnotes, I’d suggest that you try to include the meanings within the story, or translate the words, particularly if they’re relevant to the narrative rather than just adding background description.

    For example, when you said the neighbour comes out ‘with a katori’, that meant nothing to most English readers, whereas if you said she came out ‘with a katori, hugging the metal bowl close to her body’, we’d be able to understand.

    • Thank you for the suggestions, Emily. Will keep it in mind to translate non-English words within the narrative. Thanks again.

  2. What a fascinating look into another lifestyle! I really enjoyed it thank you 🙂

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