There was a knock on my door. Outside I found two busy looking individuals, “We are engineers, we’ve come to do a structural audit of your flat sir!” said one of them.

“That’s wonderful!” I said, “Please check all the beams and pillars and see whether these old walls are capable of lasting a few more years.” I then watched as they both went to my bedroom and looked around, not at walls or ceiling but curiously at my books and other stuff lying around.

“Where’s your hammer?” I asked.

“What sir?” asked the engineer wearing spectacles.

“Aren’t you going to do the hammer test on my beams and columns?”

“No!” said the other pleasantly, “Not required sir, will you sign here, saying we checked your flat?”

“But aren’t you going to tap the walls, strike the pillars and knock on the ceiling to check for any hollow sound and if they have, to recommend I get them repaired?”

“But suppose we hear a hollow sound sir?” asked the engineer with spectacles.

“Imagine all that unnecessary expenditure sir!” said the other

“What hassle for you and your family, with masons and contractors coming in and out!”

“Cement and sand all over! No sir, we will spare you all that trouble! The government just wants all buildings to have a structural audit done. It is mandatory, so we will issue you a certificate saying it is done!”

“What is done?” I asked.

“The structural audit!” said the man with spectacles showing irritation.

“But you haven’t done it!” I said.

“The government will not ask further questions sir, with our certificate!”

“But what if the building falls down?” I asked, “What if the structure is weak, shouldn’t you check?”

“That is not our problem sir! Our job is just to see that the authorities won’t harass you!”

“What if I want a hammer test, a thorough checking of my structure?” I asked, holding out a hammer.

“What is this sir?”

“A hammer!” I said, “I thought you were an engineer.

“I’m sorry, but we know only how to fill up forms!” said the second man as he and his colleague disappeared down the stairs.

I looked across the city at fallen buildings with a certificate dangling from a beam saying it was safe, clogged nullahs, with engineers saying they had been dredged to take the monsoon floods, degrees and post graduate degrees given to those who had not even gone to college and realized how well we as a people had learnt to beat the system.

Or have we beaten the system? I hear buildings crashing during the monsoon, fake doctors killing patients and political leaders with sham certificates leading our nation into a mess, and wondered as I felt the hammer in my pocket as to who actually were the fools, even as they allowed themselves to be fooled..!

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