Ghachar Ghochar

by Vivek Shanbhag, translated by Srinath Perur

Read time: about 4 minutes

It is quite natural for joint families to pretend to love what is thrust upon them. It is not only natural it is inevitable. This can be seen as one of their strengths.

Ghachar Ghochar is a story of one such joint family. The threads of the family are intertwined to form an ugly unbearable mess but they stick together to uphold the sanctity of joint families. Each of them, during the process, losing individual conscience behind the protectiveness of the other members of the family.

Cover page

The cover page depicts author’s past which is an adamant part of his present. The chai stain on the plate and the ants crawling describes the days at the ant infested home of the author before they get rich. The cover is simple and classy, also apt.


The story is about a family of six of which every member is an important part. The author is a happy go lucky man. A visit to the nearby coffee shop is a part of his daily ritual. His wife is from a humble background and finds it sorry that her husband does not proactively take part in the running of the family business. She often gets into arguments with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. The house is a mess. Chikappa is given the most respect since it’s his money and business that is running the family even though they are all part owners of the company. The characters are unique in their own way. Each character is bound by the circumstances.

But what is most noticeable is the volatile relationship existing between each member of the family.


The author grew up in a joint family in the suburbs of Bangalore. Due to the upbringing and stringent control over the money the household was not very lavish. Money was spent only on necessities and indulgence was considered to be a sin.

Like many middle class houses this family was happy too. Then one fine day they were visited by a colony of ants. These ants were found everywhere, especially near food. Initially it was a menace. Everyone in the house was annoyed by the visitors. All the eatables were kept out of reach and soiled vessels were dumped in water right after their use. Slowly it became a part of life. Children started enjoying drowning a spoonful of ants into water and watching them while they struggled to stay afloat. The life went on.

Then one day Chikkappa proposed a business deal. Sona masala slowly became the lifeline of the family making them rich. And their fates changed.

‘It’s true what they say - it’s not we who control money, it is money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.’

It is a story of this family and how money changes their lives for good and bad. The story is like a breeze in which one can smell the authenticity of old Bangalore, rusticity of a joint middle class family the stench of arrogant richness that the money brings along. The content is engrossing till the last page.


The author has kept the narration quite simple. The no flowery language or fascinating revelations. It is a simple story which hits the psychological heights and keeps one wondering about it even when it is over. The author also paints a rustic Bangalore in front of readers, like a glimpse into the past.

Good points

The cover page is beautiful. It describes the ethnicity of a suburban residence like a memory. The characters are interesting to read about. Their morals hiding behind the cover of a joint family can be seen quite clearly. The content strips different aspects of each member of the family and lays it bear for everyone to see. The greed, the misery, the anguish, the unspoken irritation, the insecurities; the author reveals the ugly side of each person like a trail of thought.

Bad points

The book is quite a short read. It leaves you thirsty for more.


The ants creeping all over your body and then you are woken up from the dream. This is how the book feels. It is seldom that you get to describe your feelings precisely. Like the ants who crawl up your arms persistently and refuses to shake off, no matter how many times you try to brush them off. The book is one of the best translations I have read in some time. The author and the translator both have earned their due respects via this book.

Who do I recommend this to

This book is for those who enjoy short stories and good literature. Those who like to have something to think about once the book is over are also going to enjoy this one. This book is also going to please those who continuously look for translated stories.

Quotable quotes

The result was that we simply did not desire what we couldn’t afford. When you have no choice, you have to discontent either.

‘They’re not ants. They’re evil spirits come here in disguise.’

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH