I picked up the phone and heard an excited voice at the other end.
“Coupon mila hai.”
“Madam, beedi packet mein prize-coupon. Mera pass coupon hai.”
I was tempted to reply with the evergreen “Mera paas Maa hai”, but being in a kind mood, I simply said, “Wrong number” and ended the call.
At least this was a genuine mistake. In the last month or so, I’ve been inundated with unsolicited calls, all because I listed my parents’ flat on some Indian property websites. Most calls are from that powerful group of people in Bangalore called real-estate brokers. Most people add lines like “NO BROKERS” or “BROKERS PLEASE ESCUSE” to their ads, but brokers just laugh and turn up anyway–usually unannounced and with a client or seven in tow. You just cannot avoid them.
The other thing you cannot avoid, when you embark on such a project, is the ancient science of Vaastu. One property site sent me a set of Vaastu tips, including some cryptic bits of advice such as “In bedrooms, always use bed of four legs with underside open” and “Low roof in North-East will lead to frequent failures for male relatives”. There were especially detailed instructions about the kitchen. Apparently, the cook must face the east, light the stove in the south-east, use items from a fridge facing north, a spice-rack facing west, and deal with a family facing the prospect of going hungry.
Now, when you put up a flat for sale, you should familiarise yourself with the orientation of your doors, windows, and flush-tanks. But one may encounter some advanced problems. One buyer asked which direction our front door faced. “East”, I said happily, knowing that this was a good thing in the world of Vaastu. “Oh, then I cannot consider.” he said. “Why not?” I asked. “East-facing is not good if owner’s name starts with A, E, I or Y”. “But your card says M. Venkatappa Rao”, my dad pointed out. “Yes, but my numerologist has said to change it to Yum Vee Rao.”
Another prospective buyer emailed to ask, “Is your staircase going clockwise or anti-clockwise?”. Being a bit directionally challenged, I tried to visualise the stairs superimposed on a giant clock. In my head, I stretched the clock to a rectangle and concluded that if a person stepped on the staircase at about 10.10am, they would reach our floor at about 3.15am two days later. So it must be clockwise. But what if one was leaving the house? In that case, one would leave the floor at 3.15am or 3.15pm and travel backwards in time (and also downwards). Thus enlightened, I replied to the buyer, “The staircase is both clockwise and anti-clockwise. The lift is also similar, going both up and down.”
Vastu has been making many headlines this year in Telengana. First, the government decided that they needed to shift the secretariat after they discovered that the old building had dangerous vaastu defects. Experts who cannot be named say that the toilet windows faced an inauspicious direction, so all negative energies left there kept blowing back inside. The chief minister of Telengana has also appointed a vaastu expert, Mr. Suddala Sudhakara Teja, as an advisor on architecture. He will advise on critical matters of state such as which direction the ministers should face during important events. For example, should the ministers gaze into the opposition’s eyes during the passing of important bills? Or should they sit next to them coyly? Mr. Teja, of course, sees his job as thoroughly modern. He says his job is to align all systems with vaastu so that governance is “effective and vibrant”.
This is commendable. We need to follow in his footsteps and make Vaastu like the ideal Indian bride–having traditional values but modern outlook. We can then solve the pressing problems of the modern Indian household. For example, what direction should the modem face so that the wi-fi signal is strong inside the house but not accessible to neighbours? What way should one orient one’s garden to prevent Mr. Sharma’s labrador from doing susu in it? And finally, is there a pooja one can perform to instantly repel real-estate brokers?