Of early lessons in commerce and budding Ponzos nipped in the bud!

Yesterday I wrote about lessons learnt in the fine art of delegating and earning by “managing” someone else rather than doing it yourself. Today’s story is about baby (literally!) steps in the field of commerce  and how they are related to the film industry!

When we were children, there weren’t too many movies made for children and since a trip to the theatre (movie theatre only) was meant  for the whole family, we got to see a load of stuff which today would be considered “unsuitable” – well, Indian cinema being highly censored, there wasn’t much to see anyway! Who can forget love scenes in which the hero and heroine ran around rose bushes and then when they got close up, the camera would pan out to a couple of roses dancing around each other!

Since sundry aunts and uncles who came to the city would always want to catch a movie, we got to see everything and many movies twice, thrice or even more! Potboilers, tearjerkers, mythologicals, romances, family dramas were all grist to our mill. I remember seeing a movie called “Dasara Bullodu” some five times – taken by a different relation each time! The draw of the silver screen was so strong that even the fifth time of a true potboiler was a treat – the idea of saying “no, i’ve already seen it” was unthinkable!! Plus if it was a rich relative, we each got a bag of popcorn to ourselves.

My mom, being something of an early Victorian in her outlook, would cover our eyes with her hands every time she thought there was an unsuitable scene playing on the screen. There were three of us and she had only two hands! The tacit understanding was that the third was expected to later “tell all”!

I can’t help but remember this when my children tell me not to watch something saying, “It’s too adult for you, Amma”! Huh? 

Oops, i was forgetting my story of base commerce! 

Class 1, I was six years old and fresh from seeing a movie over the weekend. Having watched carefully what happened, I figured that you gave some money to a window (from my vantage height, there wasn’t anything visible above the sill!) and out popped some tickets – printed on cheap blue and pink paper. Having just learnt to read, I could read that the name of the movie was printed on the ticket with a number (the price of the ticket) next to it. Wow, this was the world of adults!

Milk bottles those days (be patient, I’m going to tie up the whole story!) were delivered against coupons which had to be torn off from a little booklet – you retained the stubs. Aha, so basically when you wanted something, you had to get a coupon – Commerce 101!

And so, finding a book of discarded coupons, I knew I had stumbled on something valuable. Hyderabad’s local daily was a rag called the Deccan Chronicle, whose primary function those days was to advertise movies. And so, having figured out the innards of how adults worked, down sits one six-year old, with a copy of the newspaper, a book of old milk coupons and a pencil… and proceeds to write down the name of a different movie on each ticket. The next day, she sets up shop in school, selling each “cinema ticket” for five paisa! Pretty soon, her booklet of 21 coupons is sold out and a clean profit of a buck and five paisa is made! Ponzo had nothing on this scheme! Except Ponzo did NOT have a mother who marched said six-year old to school the next morning and made her return every paisa to the kids who had bought tickets! What she didn’t realise, of course, was that she killed the spirit of enterprise in me completely!!

Ah well, there’s always food as a comfort – my mom must have felt bad cause she made semiya payasam as a treat!


  • Milk – 3/4 litre
  • Semiya or vermicelli – 1 cup
  • Rock candy (preferred) or sugar – 3/4 cup
  • Condensed milk (optional) – 2 tbsp
  • 3 cardamoms – peeled and powdered with 1/2 tsp sugar (powdering it with sugar helps crush the cardamom pods easily)
  • Saffron – 1 pinch
  • Nutmeg – grated – 1/4 tsp
  • Cashewnuts / slivered almonds – 2 tbsp
  • Raisins – 2 tbsp
  • Ghee – 2 tbsp

Heat the ghee in a pan and roast the cashewnuts and raisins in it. The nuts will turn golden yellow and the raisins puff up. Remove and set aside.

To the same pan, add the vermicelli and roast for about 5 minutes till golden.

Add milk and keep stirring. Cook till the vermicelli begins to get soft. Add sugar a little at a time and continue to stir. Add condensed milk. If using it, reduce the sugar a bit. The vermicelli should be completely cooked by now. Add the cardamom powder, saffron and nutmeg. Switch off and add the nuts and raisins. Let cool before serving. This payasam thickens up as it sits. 

 Pic courtesy: Internet