My lungs were in a state of shock the whole of last week. And the heart had a different rhythm.
No, it wasn't because of any sudden exposure to a hazardous situation or scene. It's just that my Delhi body, COVID-19-ravaged at that—is not used to breathing clean city air.
And Dubai, a 'polluted' city by the UAE standards, ensured that I did just that. Day after day. Indoors as well as outdoors.
I'm going to spend the entire month of November—Delhi is said to breathe the worst air of the year in this month—in Dubai and this decision has led me to question all my life choices.
Privilege and Pollution
Yes, I am privileged to have an escape out of the city that has a collective death wish.
No, I do not think this escape is a permanent solution for either me or the family.
My extended family in Dubai is happy to host me and even indulge me with weekend trips to the wonders of the Emirates or even gift me T20 World Cup tickets.
I love them for their generosity but cannot take them for granted to replicate this model each time Delhi's AQI score soars.
The decision to escape has also come with the heartburn of exorbitantly priced air tickets to Dubai, thanks to the alternate reality of COVID-19 that we are living in.
The heartburn is also due to the realisation that your city, your home does not support a healthy lifestyle.
One run in the neighbourhood park is enough to aggravate any underlying health issue instead of making one 'healthy'.
For How Long Will the Blame Game Continue?
Let's not blame everything on Diwali. Or even crop burning. For these are mere symptoms of a bigger malaise: our inability to have our priorities in place.
We have, collectively, decided that pollution-related deaths are no big deal. The upper-middle class can feel cocooned in the shell of faux security bought via air-conditioning, air purifiers, water purifiers, "oxygen spas", and other such surreal necessities.
The poor are just too many to be taken into consideration. And when they are being considered, they receive "smog towers" as the State largesse.
And there are committees that get set up with much fanfare only to be shrouded in the smog of mystery, eventually.
Our inability to realise the gravity of the pollution situation barely six months after Delhi, India's capital, was gasping for breath, thanks to the shortage of oxygen cylinders and hospital beds in the city, is nothing short of bizarre.
Can anyone explain why there is no time-bound nation-wide action plan to tackle the pollution situation?
Is there any mechanism for holding the State responsible for not ensuring Right to Life?
Bring the Zeal of Covid Vaccinations to Tackling Air Pollution
Two years of the COVID-19 pandemic have reset the world, and India is no exception, where the grain is being sifted from the chaff. There is a renewed conversation around development and its direction as well as costs.
Medical insurance companies are having a ball owing to a renewed focus on health. Unfortunately, this focus remains, like most things, a privilege of the affluent, and an aspiration for the struggling.
India has been achieving one milestone after another in its vaccination drive and it deserves applause for the same. Similar zeal and resources are needed to deal with the killer that is pollution.
Blame games are passé. And so are the lofty yet hollow, insincere, and uninformed promises.
We might ignore the climate-exodus for a little while more, but only till it becomes another pandemic and even those with money and resources won't be able to escape.
Because, after all, there is no place to escape.
(Nishtha Gautam is an Editor - Op Ed at The Quint)