Many of those who hold vastu in high regard challenge the straightforward reasoning of building rules

What to make of a city that thinks buildings must be carefully configured as per cosmic principles rather than comply with civic rules?

Recently, a vastu pundit who visited a friend’s house admonished him. The invisible spirits that have come to dwell have been disturbed since Vastu Sastra — the divine book of building — has not been followed, he diagnosed. Misery would haunt, the pundit warned. The friend was convinced that all ills — financial, health and personal — had befallen him because he violated the divine rules.

Without any hesitation, he altered the building to comply with every written word in the ancient book. Rooms were knocked out, doors were sealed, and entrance and exit gates were turned around at great cost, but he did not complain. Did it appease the spirits? We don’t know yet. Prospective property buyers often receive tips on how to look for vastu-compliant apartments. Do not go for the west-facing, no kitchen in the northwest, strictly no toilets in the northeast, and so on.

I have not heard of any offended pundit cursing greedy house owners because their building unethically leans into the neighbour’s compound. Nobody rebukes builders for compromising on public safety. To a mindset that believes safety comes from the talisman that hangs inside the car and not from well-serviced brakes, absence of fire exits in a high-rise building or lack of rescue provisions seem to be of less concern.

Many of those who hold the ‘invisible logic’ of vastu in high regard challenge the straightforward reasoning of building rules. For instance, rule number 11 of the CMDA development regulations says, a building can have only two gates: one for entry and one for exit. Additional gates are permitted when the length of the property exceeds 50 metres. This rule is often ignored.

Simultaneous exit of vehicles from a building complex is a traffic hazard. Limiting number of gates creates blank compound walls and additional parking space. No building activity is outside regulation even though it happens on private property. All construction activities impinge on public life in one way or the other. Building beyond limits skews overall planning goals.

Civic rules ensure maximum common good and compliance is not a choice. Before designing homes that reflect heaven and beyond, we must keep our commitment to our neighbourhood and city.

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