Can you translate Xiaohuangdi or Shlimazel? You can seek help from #The100DayProject

As part of the #The100DayProject, Mumbai-based artist Rituparna Sarkar is uploading watercolour sketches on Instagram to illustrate unique terms that don’t have an equivalent in other languages.

art and culture Updated: Jul 04, 2017 08:18 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
Artist,Instagram,Rituparna Sarkar
An illustration from the series.(Illustration courtesy: Rituparna Sarkar )

Do you know the meaning of Bhaat-Ghoom (a Bengali/Odiya term for rice-induced afternoon siesta)? Have you ever felt like a Shlimazel (Yiddish term for a person born without any luck)? These terms are unique as they don’t have an equivalent in other languages.

Now, artist Rituparna Sarkar has decided to illustrate such untranslatable words as part of #The100DayProject. Conceptualised by New York-based artist and author Elle Luna, the global art project boasts of participants from across the world showcasing their work on a particular theme on Instagram.

“Since the beginning of the year, I was beginning to feel frustrated with unfulfilling projects, crazy timelines and endless mail pushing. That’s when my partner and friend mentioned the #The100DayProject was about to start this year. It seemed like a good idea to get aboard and try sketching regularly,” she says.

Sarkar is an alumnus of National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, where she studied Animation Film Design. She also co-founded Bombay Design House, an award-winning design studio.

She got the idea for her series from a book she was reading — Hygge by Meik Wiking (the Danish word “hygge” denotes comfort but doesn’t have an English equivalent).

“There is a world of interesting words which exist in every culture, including our own, waiting to be discovered. What’s better than re-discovering words in today’s emoji-infested world? I decided on my theme: 100 days of discovering words,” adds Sarkar.

Her illustrations (a majority are in watercolour) include unique words from other lands, regional Indian words, archaic English words that have been forgotten and urban lingo or newly-coined words.

When she starts researching a word, she reads the etymology and anecdotes attached to it. “Researching one word often leads me to others. For instance, when I got to know that the word ‘bandana’ originates from Sanskrit, I started reading up on it. That led me to a bunch of words of Colonial India/Asia origin, such as “Lascar” (term to denote sailor or militiamen from South Asia or Arab countries).”

Sarkar is now crowd-sourcing words as her followers have started pitching in with suggestions.

“I only draw the word if I’m happy with the visual I’ve thought of, and almost always add another layer, some humour or quirk,” says Sarkar, who takes an average of two hours to make each illustration.

She also ensures they are relatable and abound with familiar references. So far, she is on day 63 and has 37 more days to go.

Check out Rituparna Sarkar’s work on

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First Published: Jun 22, 2017 13:57 IST