Nov 19, 2011

Something on Vaastu

Vaastu is a fraud, taking architectural rules designed for houses
built in open settings and force-fitting them into the modern city
Sometimes bad events happen in one's life. That's when
superstition walks in like a globalised low-ost purveyor of the
finest snake oil and takes one out to a nice bar, buys one a couple
of drinks and then gently suggests that the only way to alter the
cosmic juggernaut of pure chance is to invest one's remaining
funds in the purchase of an unseemly ring studded with the right
sort of precious stone. While nebulae birth stars and scientists
discover that quantum particles increasingly behave like Senthil,
the comedian, it is still quite ridiculously easy to exploit a human
being's moment of weakness by selling the equivalent of a
sugarcoated placebo to heal a tumour.
A similar fraud is Vaastu, which takes architectural rules that
were designed for houses built in rural, open settings in the past
(essentially sunlight and ventilation design) and attempts to force-
fit them into the inflexible concrete jungle of a modern city, not
unlike how wedding dinners in Chennai serve paneer butter
masala with sambar rice. Tragedy, it turns out, has a weakness
for that wicked dessert called cognitive dissonance.
Speaking of cognitive dissonance, Benjamin Franklin once
observed that a person who has done someone a favour is more
likely to do that person another favour if they had received a
favour from that person. Normally, in Chennai, that's exactly the
sort of confusing construction that might elicit a clout on one's
head from Goundamani, but bear with me. In simpler terms, we
are nicer to people we used to be nice to in the past (and nasty to
people we've been nasty to in the past) because ideologies tend to
be post-facto concoctions (like paneer butter masala in Chennai
We do stupid things first and then find ways to justify them. Ben
Franklin apparently used his knowledge of this psychological
phenomenon to great effect to further his political career.
Vaastu consultants, gemmologists and
astropalmomagnetotheraponumerologists use it more indirectly to
augment their bank accounts. They first have to convince you that
events in one's life are, in fact, entirely in one's control (when
they really aren't) and then suggest that ruby, worn as a nose
stud, will bring in an easterly shower of currency. Once one tries
it out and realises how stupid one was to try it out in the first
place, one is already in the grip of a grinning Franklin. The only
logical next step is to remodel one's house in addition to wearing
a magnetic bracelet to “absorb negative energies.”
That brings us to an old Arabic saying: “If the camel once gets his
nose in the tent, his body will soon follow.” It's a metaphor for a
situation where permitting a small undesirable thing will result in
further worsening of the situation. Every time I see an opulent,
gemmologist or a Vaastu consultant convincing people to waste
their hard-earned money, I can only think of Benjamin Franklin
atop a camel eating sambar rice with paneer butter masala while
sliding down a slippery slope.

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