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Friday, July 20, 2018

Designs on Telangana

As the new state takes shape, from Secretariat up, Teja decides who goes where in which building.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Hydrabad | Updated: March 29, 2015 12:00:29 am
telengana, suddala sudhakar teja, hydrabad The Vaastu Advisor at Telangana Bhavan, from where he functions. He is the first such appointee in either Telangana or Andhra. (Source: Express photo)

A day in the life Of Suddala Sudhakar Teja, 49, Vaastu Advisor, Telangana government.

Land is yet to be acquired for the new Telangana Secretariat proposed at Erragadda in Hyderabad. The Government TB and Chest Diseases Hospital that currently stands at the spot would be demolished and moved to its new premises at Vikarabad, 75 km away.

While the building plan of the new Secretariat is yet to be worked out and construction is still several months away, Suddala Sudhakar Teja knows from where exactly Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao will be calling the shots.

The ‘Vaastu Advisor’ to the Telangana government says, “The block housing the CM’s office in the new Secretariat will be taller than the blocks housing offices and chambers of ministers and secretaries. This will ensure the CM is always in a commanding position.”

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It is for such “vaastu-compliant suggestions” that Teja, 49, was hired last month by the KCR government. Employed in the architecture wing of the Building and Planning Department at a monthly salary of Rs 75,000 and enjoying the status of a Cabinet minister, Teja is required to study the plan, design and contruction of all new government constructions in Telangana, including offices, flyovers, roads and parks, to see if they are “in tune with vaastu and nature”.

A celebrated vaastu expert of Hyderabad, he is the first to be made ‘Vaastu Advisor’ in either Telangana or Andhra Pradesh.

Still to get an office of his own in the existing Telangana Secretariat, Teja currently works from Telangana Bhavan, the headquarters of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and sits “wherever I can find space”. Today, he has got hold of a few chairs in the media room. “This is what constitutes my office most days,” he smiles.

Sporting a dash of vermilion, still fresh from his early morning puja, stylish spectacles and a waist-coat, he speaks carefully, measuring his words and talking mostly about vaastu.

It’s 11:30 am, and the first task of the day is examining the floor plans of the new MLA quarters being constructed. Running his fingers through large printed sheets of the layouts, Teja looks for directional alignments, locations of windows, doors, living rooms, and where the occupant would sit as he makes decisions. “Any space should fulfill some basic vaastu thumb rules,” he lists. “Sufficient natural light, ventilation and airflow at all times, east-facing entrance, and harmony with nature.”

Teja also visits sites for “visual inspection”. So, an hour later, he drives to Hyderguda, where the MLA quarters are coming up. He drives to the approach road and decides the alignment is fine as there are no “unnecessary bends or obstacles”. Engineers of the Roads and Buildings Department tell him about the foundation laid a few days ago. They show him where the windows and doors would be located, how much sunlight and ventilation these would allow, and where the rooms, toilets and office spaces would come up. Teja grins widely, as the foundation matches his vaastu-compliant floor plans.

“Do not leave room for modifications once the MLAs occupy the quarters, which might go against vaastu,” he advises the engineers, adding that the balconies should be large enough for kitchen gardens.

Back at his temporary office by around 2 pm, Teja meets some more engineers and officers of the Roads and Buildings Department. An engineer from Telangana Police Housing Corporation walks in with plans for expansion of an existing facility. Teja again checks for any vaastu flaws; whether the building is east-facing or not, the location of the offices, the entrance to the parking, space for landscaping.

He admits that since most plans drawn up before he was appointed advisor do have some vaastu element already, like facing east, he does not have to do much in existing buildings.

Teja says there isn’t scope for much disagreement either. “Vaastu is also a kind of science, it is not based on beliefs. If there is a flaw in a building, the engineers and I work out a way. For example, to make the office of a head of department vaastu-compliant, we might have to shift it from its intended location to another corner or floor. There is not much disagreement on this because it has not been constructed yet. Making changes in a constructed building can be tricky but those can be done too,” he says.

A self-taught “vaastu expert”, Teja was born to well-known writer and freedom fighter S Hanumanthu, in Suddala village of Nalgonda district. His elder brother Suddala Ashok Teja is a famous Telugu lyricist. Teja did a post-graduation in Theatre Arts, before turning to vaastu.

“I rigorously studied Vaastu Shastra for six years, travelling across the country, meeting experts, studying vaastu literature and touring vaastu-based architecture,” he says.

In 1991, he became a professional vaastu consultant and, over the years, has built up an impressive clientele list, including politicians, film stars, and corporate heads. As part of confidentiality agreements, he does not disclose the names of his clients, or talk about his relationship with CM Rao.

In between greeting visitors, mostly well-wishers, including TRS leaders, party workers and journalists, he narrates a story that got him interested in vaastu. “Growing up in Nalgonda, I was fascinated by nests of birds, particularly the hanging nests of Gijigadu (Baya weaver). The male chooses the strongest and most flexible branch on a tree and then weaves the nest using grass, reeds, feathers, etc. The nest is strong and safe, with enough ventilation and no exposure to direct sunlight. It is a happy home and is harmonious with nature. It inspired me to read about traditional Indian architecture, spatial geometry, importance of direction, the Vedas and eventually Vaastu Shastra,” he says.

As the government is yet to draw up plans for most of its new spaces, much of Teja’s work right now involves suggesting modifications in the existing Secretariat and the CM’s bungalow at Begumpet, where some of Teja’s “remedial measures” have already been implemented, such as sealing of entrances which, he says, were not according to vaastu. Teja has also suggested that Rao avoid using a couple of rooms that are not well-aligned.

Minor changes in the office and meeting rooms at the CM’s residence also mean that Rao now sits in the south-west corner. “It is the most ideal for decision-making,” Teja explains, adding it has “no negative energy”.

“In the southwest corner, the CM will not have any tension or irritants when holding important meetings. He will be calm and cool and have clarity of thought,” Teja adds.

Teja’s day begins much before he arrives at office though. He wakes up at 4 am and starts with pranayam, yoga and meditation. “I go for a walk to be with nature for sometime,” he says. After a quick bath, he does puja at home followed by a vegetarian breakfast.

In his new role as advisor, he has no fixed work hours, but Teja admits he likes to start by 9 am, and finish by early evening. “I lead a disciplined life.”

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