• Settlers


    “SO many people working hard to save to buy a house on prime land while paying their taxes. Why do we have to baby these informal settlers?”

    Thus asked celebrity babe Bianca Gonzalez in a tweet. Expectedly, land ownership rights took another mauling as urban poor advocates rose to challenge what appears to be crass ignorance about the roots of poverty and the squatter problem.

    Perhaps, breeding, core values, and every cherished trait that becomes humanity begin at home. And so, either culture or nurture had to seep-soak into a people’s ethos for millennia before these can turn as natural as breathing.

    Building materials do not matter much to Indians. An assemblage of stone, wood, and thatch can be raised to enclose spaces— but each room and every portion of living space has to be a shrine to a particular god or goddess in the Hindu pantheon. That’s what the principles of vastu—the predecessor of oriental feng shui and furyu—call for. With such building principles laid down pat, the entire house is an abode for the divine. Thus, human dwellers take pains to impart beauty and a sense of order to the dwelling where both mortals and immortals can repose.

    Furyu pays respect to the elements pristine—and draws strength from a Buddhist notion that wherever an enlightened being sets foot on, foliage, flowers and beauty thrive.

    Structure and Nature are thus fused—whether the building is a humble hovel fashioned from the materials the landscape provides, or a squat domicile wrought with flimsy paper and bamboo slats.

    Feng shui or wind-water flow has continuously gained adherents in our strangled neck of the woods. An abode, as feng shui experts have it, embodies eight spheres of human activity, each area to be freed of clutter, dirt or trash to ramp up these activities to the maximum.

    Say, the east represents the family and needs to be spruced up with flowers and foliage to strengthen family bonds. The west symbolizes children and creativity—three potted rosemary or marigold herbs in this area supposedly bolsters cash flow, creative work, and children’s health. A string of faux firecrackers in the south portion of the household stimulates fame and honors due to household occupants. Boulders or huge stones piled on the northern section of the home lot embodies a stable career and work opportunities.

    These days, such feng shui remedial measures are no longer called superstitious belief—they somehow work.

    The 1975 sci-fi yarn “In The Bowl” by John Varley points up a lapidary mind-set of certain builders—the author calls them blast jewels that explode and leave behind gems and precious stones as debris.

    Like an enlightened being who leaves a burst of flowers and beauty in every clod of earth he sets foot on, any dweller who deems himself as a precious jewel will infect any spread of land he settles on with a burst of beauty—not squalor, not ugly hideousness of an eyesore.

    “Clean up a pigsty and if the creatures in it still have pig-minds and pig-desires, soon it will be the same old pigsty again,” so wrote author Catherine Marshall.

    Pigs can turn every patch of dwelling place into a pigsty.

    Toiling, paying respect—not much about amortization and real estate taxes— and appreciation for beauty and the divine begin where one dwells.


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