The Travels of Vladimir Mordvinov

Listen! Someone’s saying a prayer in Malayalam.

He says there’s no word for “despair” in Malayalam.


Sometimes at daybreak you sing a Gujarati garba.

At night you open your hair in Malayalam.


To understand symmetry, understand Kerala.

The longest palindrome is there, in Malayalam.


When you’ve been too long in the rooms of English,

Open your windows to the fresh air of Malayalam.


Visitors are welcome in The School of Lost Tongues.

Someone’s endowed a high chair in Malayalam.


I greet you my ancestors, O scholars and linguists.

My father who recites Baudelaire in Malayalam.


Jeet, such drama with the scraps you know.

Write a couplet, if you dare, in Malayalam. 



“This is a story about the beauty in simple things and simple life,” writes Vladimir Mordvinov. “I travel all around the world looking for places which still have uniqueness and authenticity, people who still have real emotions. But these places are disappearing and all cities and counties are becoming the same. I want to show everyone the uniqueness of India.”.


Vladimir Mordvinov was born on November 7, 1985, in Krasnoyarsk city in Siberia, Russia, where he still lives. In 2007 he graduated from Siberian Federal University, specialising in the physics of space. While studying at the university he became involved in photography, becoming a successful commercial photographer in his hometown within three years of graduation. In 2011 he opened a photo studio (one of the first in the city), which he still directs. Since 2017, he has been a member of the Union of Photo Artists of Russia. He is also traveller. 

This poem by Jeet Thayil, “Malayalam Ghazal”, is reproduced from