November 2nd, 2019

The horrors of Delhi pollution

I’m not a scientist.

Nor a climate change expert.

Nor a pollution expert.

I’m not particularly brainy, especially in the science department, and just about grasp the fundamentals of air quality readings.

But even I know that to be sitting in my home study, with the windows closed + the door closed + the air purifier whirring away at full blast, and yet my eyes are stinging and I have a permanent headache and a hacking cough IS NOT NORMAL.

IT is totally abnormal.

Unacceptably abnormal.

Delhi is beyond awful today, and it is getting palpably worse as evening draws in.

I went to have a haircut at 4 pm in my local market. When I left the shop about 75 minutes later, there was an acrid smoke hanging in the air and everyone was coughing and the chowkidar had a big hanky wrapped round his mouth.

Is something burning? I asked him.

No, he mumbled from behind his hanky, this is pollution.

And I am one of the lucky ones.

We can afford air purifiers.

We work from home.

We have a car – I drove the short distance to the hairdresser, rather than walk, so vile is the air. Normally I’d walk, to do my bit for the environment, but with this toxic muck we are condemned to breath, driving made sense.

What about the thousands and thousands of people who work at night – like our very own night guard – and the millions more who can’t afford an air purifier? And the millions of people without a car who must wait for ever for public transport, or walk to their destination?

WHAT on earth are we doing, living in such a filthy, polluted city?

Our civic fathers have proclaimed a health emergency and have closed schools until 5 November.

They have distributed masks to school children.

As from Monday, they start 2 weeks of odd/even number plates, in the hope of reducing traffic pollution.

And, to use that quintessentially Indian expression, these damned politicians are, as usual, playing the blame game.

Of course they are.

It’s always someone else’s fault.

If I sound bad tempered, I am.

I am furious, if you really want to know.

I have had a headache for days now, my eyes sting all the time. I can hardly sleep at night for coughing…and I am one of the privileged ones, as I just explained.

How DARE our government spend millions on building statues and lighting oil lamps to mark Diwali? How DARE they tom-tom India as a global leader when they can’t even guarantee clean air for its citizens?

You bet your bottom dollar I’m angry – exacerbated by the permanent headache.

This is the last time I am spending Diwali and this season in Delhi, pukka.

The only reason we stayed this year was because I only landed from my Nepalese climbing trip on Diwali eve.

From next year, I’m outta here – yet again, one of the privileged ones, you’re right. But if that’s what it takes to lead a normal life, breathing clean air, so be it.

Rant over. For now.

Headache still raging. Eyes still stinging.

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