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Updated: January 12, 2012 13:55 IST

Making a difference: Letters and spirit

SOMA BASU
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TALENTED: S.Gowtham. Photo: R. Ashok
TALENTED: S.Gowtham. Photo: R. Ashok

Ambigram artist Gowtham.S aims to integrate multiple languages by evolving a common script

It all began as fun a few years ago. When Gowtham S was in the ninth standard, he found his classmate struggling to write a friend's name that started with ‘A' on a birthday gift. The challenge was to write the name in such a way that it would look and read the same when viewed from the 180 degree angle.

Gowtham fiddled with a pencil for a while and accomplished it. His friends cheered, not knowing that the art already had a name: ambigram. Till then, this Mahatma School student was known as a “good student with an unusual interest in cartoons and sketches, paintings and portraits.” He now works as a software engineer with Infosys in Chennai for a living but essentially remains a designer at heart.

Says Gowtham, 21: “I have been toying with ambigram for the past seven years. It is unique and an inspirational art form in which the artist's precision and ability can rival any computer software!” So what started as a hobby is a passion today, but Gowtham awaits opportunities to demonstrate how “ambigrams as compressed and encrypted texts can take any language a step forward.”

He confesses spending much of his time on the net searching for information and updates on this creative discipline. He has found a number of ambigrams in English, he says, but not too many in Tamil or Hindi. With the help of the Head of Tamil Department at Hindustan College, Coimbatore, he got an opportunity to put up a stall at the World Classical Tamil Conference in June 2010. “It generated curiosity but did not evoke much response. Tamil is a flexible language and I experimented with the alphabets and now have a category of 50 Tamil ambigrams. I want these to reach more people so that they understand the richness of the language.”

Gowtham says it is important to be bold and explore new possibilities, concepts, solutions and phrases. “Once you start enjoying the process of discovering the workings of an ambigram, you become willing to learn more. One should never stop experimenting with the brain. The brain is one thing that is always available and never runs out of ink or battery.”

He has also designed ambigram logos for various companies. “But it is a Herculean task,” he says, “and there is no great rush for this kind of business at the moment.” Ambigrams also make good birthday and wedding anniversary gifts and even as death anniversary mementos, he says.

Gowtham is looking beyond for a wider application of ambigrams. It was during one of his daily 50-minute morning train rides to work from Tambaram to Chengalpattu that he started counting the number of hoardings and signages on the railway platforms. “They are mostly in Tamil, sometimes in English and rarely in Hindi. A person who knows only Tamil will only read the signages or hoardings in Tamil, same for those who can only read English or Hindi. It struck me that if I could make a bi-or multi-lingual ambigram, then people can also learn another language.”

So Gowtham is now burning the midnight oil to research a common script for these three languages and their practical applications, besides working on his book on an exhaustive collection of ambigrams of English alphabets. “I am trying them in all possible combinations and have so far come up with 676, besides a dozen bilingual ones. If the concept of multi-lingual ambigrams catches on, we can do away with those Learn-Hindi-in-30-Days books as these ambigrams will become self-teaching modules.”

“Drawing an ambigram requires lot of dedication and days of practice. It doesn't happen overnight. You should be willing to try anything. How the head guides the hand and the hand guides the pencil is honed through years of hard work. My each piece is a personal project. And it is always good to find your own style,” he says.

“You can never guess what will come next. You just have to follow your intuition and express the feeling with a line's bend, which should be both attractive and readable. The symmetry you achieve in the ambigram is inherently beautiful. Of course, the surprise of achieving something unexpected is pure joy,” he smiles.

(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail to somabasu@thehindu.co.in to tell about someone you know who is making a difference)

Keywords: ambigram

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MetroplusJune 28, 2012

Great work Gowtham!!! My best wishes for u to go higher and higher!!!

from:  Raghav
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 19:29 IST

Gowtham made a wonderful piece of commercial ambigram for my company (pickmee - franchise of adidas). he made the logo in tamil and when you turn it 180 degree the same name will be readable in english.. it was great work.. all the best for the future ahead..

from:  Muthu adidas
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 16:30 IST

Congrats Gowtham!!!! U have done a wonderful job....Keep it up...

from:  Anu
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 09:53 IST

Wonderful Work Gowtham...Keep Rocking..

from:  Manojkumar M R
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 09:35 IST

Congratulations Gowtham. The concept of multilingual ambigram is really
interesting specially the station boards that you referred. Multilingual
ambigrams - Not only a way to promote a language but also helps to break
language barriers. Keep up the good work and wish you reach great
heights in this. All the very best.

from:  Shree
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 01:45 IST

Congrats Gowtham !!! bi-lingual ambigram , Something very new to hear,
these are the Personalities to be recognized . May the Almighty bless
you to reach more heights .

from:  Abdullah M S
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 14:41 IST

Great work! Nice article expressing your passion on art! Brilliant attempt, appreciate on your ambitious work! Keep going! Yet another Tamizhan(from Madurai) with all great efforts taking Tamil a step ahead! Hearty wishes!

from:  Gnana Praveen
Posted on: Jan 6, 2012 at 19:21 IST

great work. really appreciate the bi-lingual ambigram. All the best.

from:  Dhanasekarapandian Srinivasan
Posted on: Jan 6, 2012 at 11:36 IST

Hats off to you gowtham. First i would like to appreciate your courage to have worked on something which not many have done. If whatever you say about combining scripts of different language works, that will make a big difference and lots of doors will open up.

from:  Shantha Kumar B
Posted on: Jan 6, 2012 at 09:51 IST

Great work gowtham, you can make a difference with ambigrams. Keep it
up.

from:  Siddarth
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 22:26 IST

Great work !! your creativity of bi/multi-lingual ambigram is very nice..Hearthly wishes for you to reach great heights ..

from:  Gowtham chand
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 22:24 IST

I first came accross ambigrams in Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons" and was very fascinated seeing that! Now that readng this article,I am surprised to see this new 'Avatar' of ambigrams,Bringing this in practice is going to be a great help to people especially in a multilingual country like India.Great work Gowtham and i wish you all the success.

from:  Rashmi
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 22:13 IST

Ambigrams for solving real world problems would bring wonders.Way to go
Gowtham!!!

from:  prasshanth
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 21:14 IST

Ambigrams : New Script which is gonna break language barriers. :)
Congrats and All the Best, Gowtham ..

from:  Mohan Kumar Selvaraj
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 20:58 IST

i have never thought of a bi-ambigram. Very innovative idea

from:  SK
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 20:07 IST

Good work gowtham..:)i know u ll go heights.And this ambigram stuff is >awesome and interesting too.I hope it reaches everyone as its a very innovative idea too... :)All the best for ur future works..:):)

from:  Visha
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 19:16 IST

Great Idea. All the very best.

from:  Aravind R
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 19:00 IST

An innovative idea! Can't wait to see all the languages in a common script!!!

from:  ManoRanjan
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 17:43 IST

Gowtham is somebody who believes in something and yearns towards it.

from:  Adhithya
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 17:26 IST

Once again you have proved your mettle. Keep up the good work. This art may have wide oppurtunities in the days to come. Escpecially, when it comes to breaking the language barriers. I am glad to see you have got an innovative idea and working on it with dedication. Never lose hope, Never give up your passion. I will treasure the ambigram you wrote on my name forever :) Hope many treasure your works as their memories. Looking forward to see you on a bigger stage and cheer. All the best boss.

from:  Kaushik Veluru
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 16:04 IST

Hey Gowtham, Really a very great work!! Happy to see the initiative :) :) Keep up the wonderful work :) All the very best!! Success will be yours

from:  Akila
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 14:43 IST

The due recognition is comes his way. This guy is courageous enough to take the road which is not taken or less taken, and he is succeeding in it with great passion. I'm really looking forward for more innovative ideas from him. All the best..!

from:  Vignesh Thaigarajan
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 14:31 IST

Rare talents are really to be appreciated. Wishing your dreams come live soon. Never give up,Keep up your spirit.

from:  Vaishnavi
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 14:15 IST

Cool graphic design. One of the very popular ambigram logo is the old
'Sun Microsystems' logo which is rotational ambigram.

from:  Sundar Matpadi
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 13:44 IST

This is amazing Gowtham!! Hope u go a very long way. All the Best for all ur efforts.

from:  Kirthi Kanaka
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 13:38 IST

Congrats for the article dude , and multi-lingual ambigram is nice , it'll really help alot of people :)

Good luck,
Teja :)

from:  KT
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 12:47 IST

You have a got a great talent bro.! All the best. Nice to see youngsters getting recognized for their hardwork and talent.

from:  Muthu
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 12:44 IST

Innovative idea.Especially the combination of three languages and their applications as he says is interesting.I wish him all success for his future works on this amazing art.

from:  Prasanya.G
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 12:08 IST

Good work Gowtham. If all the three languages can be written in the way you said, it
will be really useful. Keep up your good work.

from:  Pavan Gowtham
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 12:00 IST

Apart from his ambigrams, he is driving home the point - how brave one should be to not stop from chasing the true passion

from:  Baskar
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 11:36 IST

Hey Gowtham, Heartly appreciates on your art. All the best for your further accomplishments in ambigrams.

from:  Nadarajan. R.
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 11:25 IST

To be truthful ,I was also a part of that ninth standard friends who just cheered and walked away , but taking it to a greater height and chasing the dream , your awesome dude , keep growing and all the best for all your future endeavor.

from:  Vijay Abilash.M
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 10:53 IST

Before reading this we all would have thought Ambigram is just another form of art through which a word interpreted in two or more ways. But you are trying to bring more life to this by breaking language barriers. All the best !!

from:  Arun Prasad
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 10:22 IST

This is a wonderful art. Especially, the bilingual ambigrams Gowtham talks about is really great. Hope he does a good contribution to the rich Tamil language.

from:  Sathyanarayanan S
Posted on: Jan 5, 2012 at 10:12 IST
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