Guchchi Tales
“Guchchi” is a popular Marathi word for “Terrace”. The terrace has played an important role in my life, often fuelling my imagination and creativity. The idea of sleeping on the terrace - flat on one’s back and looking at the never ending blue sky continues to excite me. Many creative ideas have emerged on the terrace, including ideas for this column that Moneylife carries every Friday.
 
The terrace served many purposes. In two of the flats that I have lived in, the terrace was just a jump away, since both flats were located on the upper most floors. Terraces are used for social gathering among residents. In some buildings, terraces also served as a cheaper venue for arranging a wedding reception. There were sports activities planned on the terrace and winning the races felt like winning an Oscar. Children in the building congregated on the terrace to rehearse plays that they staged during social get-togethers and also on special occasions like Raksha Bandhan, Diwali, Holi and Ganesh Chaturthi.
 
Playing Holi on the terrace was filled with fun and laughter and we often lost track of time. We would also delight in throwing balloons filled with water on unsuspecting passers-by down the road. The puzzled look on their faces when they could not locate the miscreants was worth a Kodak moment to be captured on the camera. The Kodak camera that I got as a gift for obtaining good marks in my Class X exams gave me an outlet to venture into amateurish photography.
 
I have always loved terraces and I still do. The difference is that there were no MP3 players then, but mercifully, we had pocket radios. I would climb on to the water tank and sit there comfortably, immersed in looking at the stars in the sky. My mind would often recall the nursery rhyme – Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; How I wonder what you are…
 
 
The terrace has also played a crucial role in my success in various examinations. I would leave for the terrace at 5.30am – just at the onset of dawn and I would return home only by 9am. In between, my mother would fetch me a cup of coffee. The time between 4.30pm to 7pm in the evenings was ideal for studying in solitude on the terrace. Walking along the breadth and length of the terrace, one could see other students studying on their terraces and it was a great morale booster.
 
The expansiveness of the terrace was so inviting that visiting the terrace at least once a day became an addictive habit in later years. In South India, it is quite common for families to have “nilachoru” (the dinner that is had in the presence of full moon). That was also the time for engaging children with folk tales.
 
 
Terraces have found an important space in Bollywood movies too. Who can forget hit songs like ‘Bagon Mein Bahar Hai” (Aaradhana, 1969) or “Dil Ki Kitab Kori Hai” (Yaar Mera, 1972) or “Maine ne kaha phoolon se” (Mili, 1975) that were shot on a terrace? Sanjay Leela Bhansali showed the excitement of flying kites from the terrace (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999) and the title song of the super-hit tear jerker "Khilona” (1970) was also shot on a terrace. In the movie Anjali (1989) Mani Ratnam showed the puppy love between a boy and a girl from the neighbourhood.
 
 
Hrishikesh Mukherjee had Rekha plan a secret music fest on the terrace (Khoobsurat, 1980) when the stern lady of the house was away (the song “Piya Baaware” that featured Rekha, Ashok Kumar, Shashikala and Komal Mahuvakar). The terrace has also been used to portray gloomy, sombre and morbid images in films like “Dayra” (1953). In “Pyaasa” (1957), Guru Dutt used it to show the pent-up and repressed emotions of the poet and the street walker in the song – “Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo”. I recall one more song in “Delhi 6” that was shot on the terrace – but cannot recollect the wordings of the lyrics. Can someone help?
 
 
When I visited Chennai in the summer of 2007, I realised that residents of this city spent their nights on their huge terraces due to the terrible humidity inside their homes. The claustrophobic pint sized flats seldom provided any respite from the heat. The gentle breeze on a warm night in the terrace is too hard to resist. Just plug into your MP3 player and take a stroll on the terrace – I am sure that you will love it.
 
 
I take this opportunity to also express my long suppressed guilt about something else. Terraces hotspots for women in the building to dry home made fryums and papads during summer. Children in our building had this bad habit of sneaking to the terrace when no one noticed to taste the damp, unfried papads on the terrace. The taste was so good that it was hard to resist having one's fill. The poor women would blame the crows for having swiped the wet papads put out to dry.     
 
 
I am sure the practice of taking evening strolls on the terrace continues in Mumbai. The cluster of buildings around us provided a clear glimpse of the neighbourhood that we lived in. A splendid view of the mountains around Film City in the mornings and noons and an aerial view of the Lokhandwala complex of buildings was a pleasure to behold. I recall how I had jumped from the top of a water tank to the terrace floor, underestimating the distance between the two. The result was a sprained leg that I dared not inform my parents about, for fear of getting spanked.
 
One of my aunts lived in a palatial home near Rupam Cinema in Sion. Her garden terrace was so beautiful that even thinking of it continues to energise and excite me. Watching the sunrise in the morning is as exhilarating as that of the sun set at dusk. Viewing a profusion of lights in the darkness of the night is so calming. If only there were mild showers or a drizzle to add to the effect!
 
 
The ideal setting of a romantic film songs, if I have left out any memorable songs shot on a terrace, do write and fill the gap!
 
 (Venkatesh Ganapathy is at present pursuing his doctoral research in supply chain management from Alliance University, Bangalore. He is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. In this column, he shares the memories of his childhood in the ‘70s.) 
 
  
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    The day I got lost and Elaichi Horlicks
    Fridays are generally considered auspicious. It is a common practice for women in Tam-Bram families to take an oil bath on Fridays before the morning prayers. This happened in the year 1973. My mother had gone to take a bath allowing me to play in the corridor outside. 
     
    I, along with a boy in the neighbourhood, who was barely a year junior to me, decided to visit my grandparents who lived across the road. They had come to stay with my uncle (father's younger brother) for a temporary period of 6 months. My grandfather was the stricter kind and a bit grumpy. My grandmother was a feisty woman - way ahead of her times - she believed in calling a spade a spade and seldom bothered about what the society thought of her. She was extremely attached to all her grandchildren - 27 from her 8 children - 5 boys and 3 girls.
     
    But she was also very intelligent, systematic and organized. Whenever she travelled, she would carry a small pouch that contained a neat towel, her medicines, Amrutanjan, and Vicks. She was an excellent cook and never believed in staying in the kitchen all along. She would finish her kitchen work at the earliest and spend the rest of her time socializing. 
     
    I think she was a bit darker in complexion than my grandfather who had a fair complexion and this often seemed to prick her. But no one can dispute this - she had the last word in the house. Her children found her to be made of sterner stuff; and she was often chided for being inflexible and stubborn. But my grandmother couldn't care less. She was very creative and would sing lullabies for her grandchildren that she composed on the spot. She was also spiritual left no stone unturned in following the religious rituals that were part of every Tam Bram household.  
     
    I bragged to my playmate that we could go visit my grandmother who lived close by. We wore our parents'  footwear and did not bother to inform anyone about our plan. Since it was morning hours and there was no security guard those days, no one noticed two young kids walking across the busy road. 
     
    It is a real miracle that we managed to cross the busy MG Road. I started walking towards the home of my grandmother but expectedly lost my way … As luck would have it, the woman who delivered milk packets to my grandmother spotted us wandering about and immediately recognized me. In no time she took us to our grandparents' home.
     
     
    (Family Portrait: My grandfather (second from right) & my grandmother is right behind him.)
     
    My grandmother was shocked that we had come to her house on our own. Hugging us, she immediately made us comfortable. She traipsed into the kitchen and quickly brought two cups of "Elaichi" Horlicks for us. Intelligent that she was, it took her no time to understand that our mothers had not been informed. There were no landline phones then - forget about smart phones!  
     
     
    (The busy MG Road junction, now)
     
    She got ready in a jiffy and escorted us back home only to realise that my mother and our neighbour had turned the building upside down. My mother was always vigilant - sometimes her over-protective feelings did me no good. She sensed that something was amiss when she did not hear the noise in the corridor outside the flat. A search was made in all the flats in the building. Neighbours in those days were more than neighbours - they had strong emotional bonding with one another and believed in cohesiveness. Someone suggested filing a FIR in the police station because child trafficking was not uncommon in Bombay of the 70's. 
     
    It was a great relief for my mother and her neighbour to find both of us were safe. The building residents had a hearty laugh when they saw us wearing oversized foot wear. Though this incident occurred so many moons ago, it is still so fresh in my memory. For a boy who was forever fond of gulping gallons of Bournvita and Ovaltine, the taste of "Elaichi" Horlicks was arresting.  Even now whenever I see "Elaichi" Horlicks in a medical shop, it reminds me of my grandmother.
     
    (Venkatesh Ganapathy is at present pursuing his doctoral research in supply chain management from Alliance University, Bangalore. He is a freelance writer and an avid blogger. In this column, he shares the memories of his childhood in the ‘70s.) 
     
     
     
     
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    Direct Plans & the Coconut Tree
    Investors can buy mutual fund schemes directly and save on commissions or they can go through a distributor and save the hassles of doing it all by themselves. There are pros and cons for both options. But distributors are under attack by the market regulator, even though they are the ones who funnel the money into mutual funds. Once in a while, a distributor gets worked up enough and hits back. Manoj Nagpal, a successful distributor, penned the following story about the folly of investors trying to save money on commissions by going direct. 
     
    “Swamy goes to buy a coconut from the shop. The shopkeeper tells him that the coconut price is Rs40.
     
    Swamy: Where can I get it cheaper?
     
    Shopkeeper: If you go to the wholesale market, you will get it cheaper.Swamy goes to the wholesale market.
     
    Swamy: How much is the coconut?
     
    Wholesaler: Rs36.
     
    Swamy: Wow, 10% cheaper. But where can I get it cheaper?
     
    Wholesaler: At the coconut farm.Swamy goes to the coconut farm. Outside the farm, there is a farm shop.The man at the farm shop tells him a coconut costs Rs25.
     
    Swamy: Where can I get it cheaper?
     
    Farm Shop: You climb the tree and take it yourself; you can have it for Rs15.
    Very happy, Swamy looks at the coconut tree and sees that the farm workers easily climb the tree. Swamy thinks “If these farm workers can easily climb the tree, so can I. Doesn’t look so difficult.” Swamy starts climbing and reaches half-way. Very happy, he starts moving up faster. At the top, as he tries to grab a coconut, he loses his balance and is about to fall. Luckily, he manages to hold on to the coconut. The coconut snaps and he falls down with the coconut. He fractures his leg but is happy that he saved money on buying the coconut! Are you like Swamy trying to buy mutual funds directly?”
     
    Predictably, this raised the hackles of those who do not use distributors. There has been a blog post criticising the analogy. One of the choicest comments on it was this, by one Rahul Chaudhuri: “I bought coconut from a shopkeeper for Rs40, but it didn’t contain much water! When I asked him about it he said: ‘Sir, mai thodi andar ja ke dekh sakta!”’ Distributors will find it hard to counter it.
     

     

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    COMMENTS

    Abhishek Singh

    2 years ago

    Direct plan is buying from Farm shop and climbing tree for coconut is equivalent to directly investing in equity, if you know about it then only climb...

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    2 years ago

    What is to become of the Aadhar that Nilekani sold to the Khangress, and which like all the despicable Khangress policies, the BJP championed with such enthusiasm, vigour and rigour?

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