This brought to mind an incident that happened quite a few years ago. I was practising in Nasik then and had a bunch of great friends, all young architects like me. We were members of a local association, which organised a lot of activities like lectures, slideshows, etc. Vastu shastra had just started becoming a thorn in our flesh around that time, so we persuaded the association to arrange a seminar on it. We volunteered as members of the organising committee.
It was decided to call three keynote speakers: A Vastu Pandit from Hyderabad, an architect from Mumbai, and an astrologer from Pune. I was landed with farming the crowd questions after each session. Before the event started, I ‘planted’ the crowd with friends with questions. This was partly insurance and partly because we had decided to needle one of the speakers. The architect from Mumbai was to be our target.
Why him? None of us could stand the guy. We had seen him in action in a seminar in Pune, earlier that year and dislike was instant. He had made a name for himself over the last few years as a ’Vastu-compliant’ architect. As things stood, we were being put to a lot of bother by self-styled ‘Vastu-pandits’ and here was one of our brethren, having crossed to the other side, so to speak. We were to find out, however, later that evening that there was more to this than what met the eye.
The seminar kicked off in the morning and the first two speakers, the Vastu Pandit and the astrologer did their bit. My ‘plants’ triggered the questions and they, in turn, inspired the crowd. The pandit and the astrologer raised obfuscation to fine art and practised the credo: “When in doubt, confuse”. Consequently, they did well. Quickly getting through with lunch, we returned to prepare for the Vastu architect.
Our man strode onto the stage confidently. He was impeccably clad. His handsome, clean-shaven visage was capped by straight, black hair pulled back into a ponytail. Closer inspection revealed the ravages of many a whisky upon his face, but he did cut a dashing figure on stage. I could see that the audience sat up and took notice, post-prandial sleepiness forgotten.
He didn’t disappoint them. He moved through a well-prepared presentation with practised dexterity and a slight air of disdain. Even my plants could not shake this man’s confidence. We did rattle him, but he did get his point across that Vastu Shastra was still relevant. My little group decided to regroup and attack later. The seminar came to a close and we were to reassemble later at a nearby Five-star Hotel for cocktails and dinner at the poolside, hosted by a sponsor.
Once there, we allowed our target to get through four drinks before we made our move. Another of our group, a guy who couldn’t make it to the seminar, had bolstered our numbers. He, we got to know, had a larger axe to grind. His wife had worked at one time in this man’s office and some unsavoury incident had made her quit in a hurry. My friend also was armed with intimate details of our man’s projects, which he had glossed over. We used this info to probe the extent to which Vastu principles had been applied. We could see our man get more and more uncomfortable. It was very clear that he was using Vastu only as a gimmick. Finally, our man lost it, sometime after his seventh drink. Badly sloshed, he blurted out:
“Look my friends; Vastu is my USP, something that sets me apart from other architects. It gets me noticed. It gets me projects. That’s all it is good for. Whether it has any positive or negative effects on the lives of my clients, I don’t give a f***k!! Now bugger off, you bloody pests. Leave me alone”. Saying this, he lurched once more to the bar.
Unfortunately, the more one drinks, the louder one gets. Maybe one’s hearing gets impaired. Whatever the reason, these last words were extremely loud. All conversations ceased and silence fell on the small crowd, gathered on that cool summer evening in Nasik. My friend, the one who arrived late, chose this moment to administer the coup de grâce. As our target wobbled his way to the bar, he said in a clear tone:
“Mr Vastu Architect! Does your Vastu also tell you which particular corner of an Architect’s office is good for sexual harassment of employees?”