Placing 1800 cardboard colored tiles is probably a lot easier in the winter cold, than it would have been for all these ladies to have indulged in the real 'kolam' making thing. In addition, it has the advantage of getting a large group of youngsters involved in the project, albeit from a distance, pulling together the strands of many other art forms and newer artistic crazes such as Zentangle as though they were individual pieces of a quilt to be sewn together.
During Pongal, at my grandmother's house in the village, I recall waking up early to help my mother and grandmother, as they set up clay stoves to be fed with dried palm leaves and cow dung patties, while the rice simmered in huge pots for the pongal. Before all this could start, there was the incessant cleaning of the courtyard, when my mother and a few other ladies would begin the work of drawing the kolams. I might have helped with a few tiny ones that I could manage in a few spots. It was a huge time-consuming undertaking, all supervised with the eagle eye and sharp tongue of my grandmother.
Back home in the city, with a mosaic floor outside our flat, there was no suitable space for a kolam. In later years, once we moved to our own house, there was the cement pad in front of the doorsteps, always with a fresh kolam, simple ones for every day, and more elaborate ones on festivals and special occasions.
Now, in the US, I do them on paper, or electronic slate or tablet.It may be creatively satisfying, but there is still not the fulfilment brought by the full-body work out of bending over, moving in a circular line around the floor, feeling the powder run between the fingers, controlling the line of the kolam, drawing segment after segment joining into one long harmonious infinity.
Kolam is simply, as one of the many meanings of the word in Tamil, Beauty itself, worn out everyday in the humdrum of daily life, and renewed afresh every morning.