The US State Department sent me an email, which was puzzling as I had never asked for a used tank, a heat-seeking missile, or an autographed picture of President Trump.
Then I wondered whether it was because of the silly joke that I had made on Twitter about Trump. My wife keeps warning me that politicians today are very touchy about what they see about themselves on the social media.
“You will never be able to visit the States,” she said. “Or, if you do, the security guys will go through your phone at the border and God only knows what would happen next.”
Leaving aside buildings that inexplicably start leaning to one side after heavy rains, or start slowly sinking or suddenly collapsing like a pack of cards, the more dangerous thing today are politicians who do not have a sense of humour
When a loudmouth Bollywood actor recently said in India that Mumbai is a dangerous place to live, the local municipal officers came with a couple of bright-yellow coloured JCBs and partially broke down the house she had bought and converted into an office, to well, work from home.
“Today, my home is crumpled, tomorrow it is your pride that will crumble,” the actor thundered, at the chief minister of the state, and immediately, the very efficient municipal officers sent her a notice again.
It said that her other home had illegal extensions done to it and it too would be demolished, unless layout plans of the abode are sent to the municipality soon. “Democracy is in danger,” shouted the opposition, seeing an opportunity. “Today, it is your homes that are being broken, tomorrow it could be your heads,” it warned.
The job of an architect in India is pretty miserable because it is not just about layouts and pretty frontages, or expounding to clients about airy rooms with natural sunlight and high ceilings or bathrooms that are not only functional but also beautiful, because whenever a new home is to be built, it is the lady of the house who designs the house.
“The front door should face East, and I want the puja (prayer) room next to the bedroom and the bathroom should be way, way back, near the servant’s quarters. If possible, can you maybe, build the unclean bathroom, outside, on the balcony, hopefully. “
When you tell the municipality that you are planning to build a house, the engineers want precise plans and the exact floor area. But in reality, nobody follows the plans.
Steel girders hanging loose
Once when driving through bustling and overcrowded districts of Delhi I saw apartments and office buildings that looked as if they had been hit by cannon fire. The sign on one shop said, ‘Home Furnishings’, and above, on the first floor was a shell of a building, with steel girders hanging loose.
Nearby was an apartment building and right on the topmost floor was a room open to the skies and you could see a staircase leading to nowhere.
“Illegal structures,” explained a relative. “These people had added floors without permission.”
But leaving aside buildings that inexplicably start leaning to one side after heavy rains, or start slowly sinking or suddenly collapsing like a pack of cards, the more dangerous thing today are politicians who do not have a sense of humour.
The other day a retired naval officer living in Mumbai, circulated on his Whatsapp group a cartoon about the chief minister, and the minister’s functionaries came to his home and gave him a bloody eye.
It was said that social media would bring about egalitarianism and promote free speech but all it has done is given us bad tempered populists and politicians and random beatings.
Incidentally, the email from the State Department was signed Yours Sincerely, Mr. Michael Richard Pompoe, and it said that my overdue funds of $1.5 million were waiting for me. And that’s another story.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi