Thursday, January 29, 2015

My Piece of Sky!

Who says you cannot hold the moon in your hand?

Tonight when the stars come out and the moon rises in the velvet sky, look outside your window, then raise your hand and position your fingers around the disk of light.

There you go . . . That was easy!” …Vera Nazarian
Vera Nazarian is an Armenian-Russian American writer of fantasy, science fiction and other "wonder fiction" including Myth punk, an artist, and the publisher of Norilana Books. Thoug what she has mentioned about the sky & the magic it holds, it’s not fantasy but sheer nature which any of us can experience from our windows. But is it really true as it’s that “my piece of sky” is what has become a fantasy, especially for the millions living in Metros like Pune. As usual to all those who are wondering where this topic is heading, recently I was in conversation with my sister who has a good rather decent flat at plush location in Pune & yet she is after me for changing the same & all she said to me is, “Snajya, I want a flat with big terrace from where I can see the sky clearly!”. That’s the only reason I want to shift from this flat of mine which has everything from location too luxury but sky view! It’s not her words rather the feelings about sky which made my thought process going on role. As really the view of sky is so important for a home? May be we come from a town like place where apartment complexes were unheard of & mostly all were single storied homes & sky was always in the view, may it be from the front or backyard or from the roof of the home i.e. top terrace! Here I confess that I really couldn’t find the term parallel to “Aangan” or “Sajja’, as these are spaces one has to feel & not just rudely express them as civil terminology! These were the spaces from where sky was always within your reach & now looking back to my days as kid & realize how much time of the day I used to spend under the sky!  And I certainly miss it in Metros like Pune & sure I am not the only who miss it. As most of us who has memories of childhood looking at sky on a sunny day & got excited by the white smoke trail of jet moving on the vast blueness of the sky, will certainly be missing looking at sky! Now we mostly spend our days & nights under shelter within the concrete or glass walls & with artificial lights at our service & rarely have even a minute to look out of our window & see the sky, leave apart going to top terrace of our buildings & spend some time under the sky! Really, here I will like to ask a question to all the readers & to my friends that when did you last have gone to roof of your building where you reside or work & just kept looking at the sky at any hour of the day or night? I am sure most of us will have to remember real hard & I myself have rarely done it but then I have a small terrace at my work place as well to my study in my home & I do spend some moments under the sky! What it gives me can’t be shared in words as peace is something one needs to experience, to feel & not to bound it in words! I think it’s this peace factor which makes that small corner named terrace most important in any home! Agreed with modern living conditions, all can’t have luxury of having individual home with private roof but we do have balconies & attached terrace to have our view of the sky. And yet the roof should be common & accessible for all the occupants of the buildings or should be so, legally as well morally! In my childhood days in summer we used to sleep on the roof of the home & even still back in time when we were living in old town where the houses were joined, so the roof was common & to sleep under the stars was real fun  while chatting with friends & sharing horror stories! Well that was community living in true sense & the roof or the terrace along with our piece of sky was major aspect of that life!
 It’s interesting how the terminology in the home designing has changed from time to time but has the use of these spaces changed so? No, is what I feel personally. Now over twenty years associated with making homes of various sizes & for different requirements few things haven’t changed at all. Though the increasing prices as well scarcity of space & the rules have had their impact & for a while we may think a particular aspect of planning is getting absolute or taking a back seat but it’s a temporary effect. After all from the civilization time the needs of human being towards his residence haven’t changed much.

A home should give you a secure & safe feel with peace as well have a good aesthetic looks too. Now, secure & safe one can make any house by all physical means like durable material, locks, doors etc but how one makes oneself at peace & another factor is aesthetic factor of the home i.e. its looks for outsiders. Here the builders as well designers started knowing the importance of making the home more open to nature as that’s one sure way to have peace for the residents of the home & then we need a place from where we can be absolutely in tune with nature without being feel unsafe & there the term "Sajja" came in to the picture which now we call as balcony. But actually speaking it’s not exactly a balcony; it’s an open space at upper floor adjoining to the main house which is open to sky & from where you can be in actual contact with nature around. More rightly its terrace attached to the room & not top of the building.

In central India where the summers are extreme hot many a times this Sajja's are protected by "Gavaksha" i.e. sort of windows with ornamental "jali" carved in stones mostly. This served two purposes ,one is giving protection from heat waves & another was the view of the sajja was getting protected too, so the ladies of the house also can use it without getting watched by passer by traffic or from surroundings. Many of the Havelis or Wadas use to have central chowk open at ground level but then it has its own restrictions as it does provides the view of the sky but not the breeze which you get at Sajja level as well the view of the surrounding. And the classic example of such protected Sajja's is Jaipur's Havamahal! With ornamental red stone jali work protecting every Sajja at multiple levels an effect of most beautiful facade has been created. In northern India such Sajja's are created at every level so from any floor you can have your view as well breeze. Many Havelies proudly still carry the Sajjas & very beautiful Jalis protecting them at proper places. Many a times an open window like place is created at outer wall of the room where you can sit adjoining to it & enjoy the view around. In Europe also under the name of Balcony or Verandah such spaces have been created from ancient day’s in house building. Many a times such places have been beautifully decorated by plantation creepers like “bogunvllias" giving the whole outline a colorful effect. Rather in many families it’s a tradition to have their morning breakfast as well dinner at such places & get relaxed by being in tune with nature.

In later days of FSI & multistoried building the term Balcony was introduced which was a very similar in concept of Sajja but a wrong implementation in size at many places it was just four feet wide giving you no room to move as well restricted view of surrounding. Because of shortage of space the balconies also got converted in to the room only. Again the need for having your own piece of open sky started bothering designers & the term of Attached terrace come in to the picture. Many a must be thinking it’s another of developers earning way but what I feel, there has to be a place which should be in proportion with the size of your home & which should be open to sky or surrounding as that’s the place where you are free from the concept of getting confined by the walls & it’s this openness which makes your mind also open for the nature. And what kind of home it is which don’t have a place where you don’t get in contact with nature! Unfortunately I have seen such terraces getting covered or enclosed in the weirdest ways not only defeating the concept of the same but spoiling the esthetic view of the entire building. People use tin sheets or fiber sheets or use iron grills & things like that under the name of security & try to enclose this area also. It’s a pain to watch the horrible grill structure & enclosing of the adjoining terraces people do in the name of safety with various types of fabrication. I am not against safety of the occupants but ultimately safety is in our mind, there are ways to get it in practicality is what we need to understand. By covering such small adjoining terraces we are cutting ourselves from the sky is what we forgot! Well, can’t blame the residents too as when per sq ft rates are souring, every sq inch counts & in that race sky loss to enclosing walls is a fact.
 Another important aspect is with increasing concretization around we are forgetting that we are not the only specie which need shelter & protected habitat but there are many around whom we are displacing for our homes! If you have noticed in Pune city or any growing town earlier we were able to see lots of birds like Bhardwaj, Common Sparrows, Bubul, Mainas & even Butterflies but now we hardly see any of these birds. Simple reason is they just don’t have any places left where they too can rest for a while & get some food naturally available & water. They can’t make their nests on brick walls or concrete slabs or glazing we have for our facades! Here such sajjas i.e. terraces can provide them a good place to have their habitat for water & food by a little of our attention & support. This can be our support to biodiversity & just a small provision for birds to have water & food with few planters & see the difference! I have experienced it at my own small piece of terrace adjoining to my work cabin. I stared keeping just water bowls & at each after noon there is like get together of many birds for bathing & drinking water & just to watch it is so relaxing for me & each day some new guest comes in form of a bird making the get together more colorful.

Friends, make some time out from your busy schedule & spent few minutes in the place called "Sajja" if you are lucky enough to have one & see the change those few minutes brings in your life! We need to understand the importance of such spaces in & around our home & should try to use them for the purpose for what they have been created. Recently I came across a very beautiful sentence by Architect Mr. Rajiv Mishra, who is Principal of great JJ School of Architecture, sharing the same here; “Moonlight floods whole sky from horizon to horizon; how much it can fill in your room depends on the windows it has”! I think the sentence says it all as sky is fathomless & surrounds the earth so we all have our share in it; all we need is to look for that peace of ours from the sky! So lets experience some relaxed & cozy moments here at such terraces, seeping a cup of tea & looking at rising sun or welcoming monsoon with getting soaked in first rain drops by holding the railing bar, at a cozy warm noon read a fairy tale book sitting in a chair & sometimes when its dark around just look at the stars at distance & try to make out figures from their formations! After all owning a home doesn’t mean just to own a piece of concrete slab encased by brick walls covered by costly interiors; but it’s the view of sky you can look at through those walls is what real home means & trust me it comes at free of cost!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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