Saturday, April 12, 2014

Gachchi : A Playground For The Memories

I read the word “Gachchi” on my friend’s FB wall yesterday. Almost immediately, a very funny thing happened. I realized immediately that there was something very warm, honey-like and familiar about the sound it made in my mind. And I wondered why it had begun to trigger a jet of memories.

Then, in my head, I heard a little girl asking me, “Gachchi var kheluya?” (Shall we play on the terrace?)

For the uninitiated, “Gachchi” is Marathi for “terrace”. And for this post, I will refrain from using the English equivalent, simply because it will not sound even remotely as magical.

As a kid, I lived on the top floor of a fairly old building, and two flights of stairs – seventeen steps exactly – took me to the Gachchi.

It was an ordinary C-shaped structure, with little blue-green-white-mosaic chips that ran along its expanse. The parapet walls were about four-feet high, coarse, stone-grey structures, and at irregular intervals on them, stood old TV antennae, the kind that had to be adjusted everytime there was a transmission problem.

There was nothing spectacular about the Gachchi, really.  But to me, the Gachchi was my perennial source of merriment, my wonderland. Back then, I remember preferring the Gachchi to the playground. Perhaps because I never did enjoy games that involved too much running around or that came with a set of rules. 

I think I loved the Gachchi so much because it let me be. If I had a friend with me on a particular day, we could begin a game of charades or Badminton or ‘House-House’ or Antakshari. If I did not have company, I would begin making my own stories and enacting them. There was no one to judge or criticize, and my imagination could be as freewheeling as it wanted to be.

The Gachchi listened if I wanted to cry. Or vent out anger. If I wanted to study, it allowed me to. If I needed to sing myself hoarse, it became my audience.  If I wanted to play a make-believe game, it humoured me. If I wanted to write, it played the unintrusive companion.

Sometimes, my entire family would get together, and we would have impromptu potluck dinners on the Gachchi. We even had a table specially meant for such occasions.

The Gachchi allowed me to discover the wonders of the night sky. Often at night, my parents and I would climb up those two flights of stairs, go to the Gachchi, and they would teach me to identify constellations. Great Bear, Orion and Big Dipper are names I’ve learnt standing on that Gachchi, tracing and memorizing patterns with my fingers.

Then, there were the birthday parties. On those days, the Gachchi would be transformed into a different world altogether, with armchairs, gaddas, chataayees, lights and balloons.

We left that house in many years ago, and I have never had a chance to see the Gachchi since. Sometimes, little snapshots of times spent on the Gachchi appear in my head. Of red chilli peppers or raw mango strips left out to dry in the warm sunshine. Of the special blue and white table that patiently stayed put until summoned for a Gachchi-dinner. Of certain faces that were there during those parties, but are no more around. Of the night sky that was my blackboard. Of me sitting with my childhood friends, exchanging schoolgirl chitchat. Of TV antennae that frequently malfunctioned. Of the water tank that I was bold enough to climb on top of but too cowardly to come down from.

In a very strange way, I think spotting one tiny word out of so many, was no mere coincidence. Because even as I list memory after memory that the word triggered, I realize that I have really, really, missed an old friend. And I feel a certain calling to go back to the Gachchi, and relive bits and pieces of the yesteryears.  

So many things change over time. And so many remain just as constant. Perhaps in our quest to deal with the variables, we forget that the constants are still around. And that they are waiting for us to re-establish contact. Strange as though it may sound, I think one such constant just found out a way to reach out to me. And I cannot wait to do the same!

PS: Did I mention I love discovering magic in the most random occurrences?

Much Love,