Art and text : Shreyas R. Krishnan
Much of my work revolves around the idea of memory. How, why, and what do we remember? In my own practice, I write and draw as a way to document and remember, allowing my body to participate in helping me retain experiences and information– much like when as children, we are made to form alphabets, words, and sentences over and over again, with pencil and pen, on ruled and blank paper, until we discover our own unique ways to construct them without a second thought. Practice makes perfect. Muscle makes memory.
36 Days of Vowels is my spin on 36DaysofType. I usually steer clear of hand lettering challenges, mostly because there is a lot of precedent in how Latin characters have been interpreted. Working with Tamizh and Devnagri vowels would let me operate in a space unhindered by an overload of visual stimulation.
Apart from being an exercise in abstraction and readability, 36 Days of Vowels also goes back to the idea of drawing and writing letter forms to make sound and meaning tangible. The three languages in this project appear in the order that they ought to be in proximity to me – Tamizh, my mother tongue; Hindi, an official language of the Indian government; and English, a language of international convenience and power. Truth is, however, that despite learning to speak in English and Tamizh simultaneously, I acquired the ability to read and write in English first, Hindi second, and Tamizh last.
What does it mean to be able to gain this memory with one language, and then with two more? Once, during an exchange semester I spent in Milan, my Italian classmates tried wrapping their heads around the extent of language diversity in India: “Farfalla is butterfly,” they said. “Pattaampoochi in Tamizh, Titli in Hindi,” I said, crashing any hopes they had, of finding a way to connect the dots, to make sense of the fact that these two worlds did not overlap in any way. Language allows us to create and experience reality. It can validate the existence of things, people, identities.
Since the start of this project, I have been consciously trying to type or write in Tamizh or Hindi, instead of simply transliterating them in English. Shapes become sounds, sounds carry meanings. How many realities do I form and switch between when I can speak, read, and write in three different languages and scripts? Which of those realities do I exist in more?
In my case, this project is an attempt to own my trilingualism and the multiple realities that come out of it.