It’s time to brace yourselves, especially if you’re in Delhi. As if dealing with the crazy traffic, rising temperatures and general sense of anger in the people around you wasn’t enough, it’s time to add another cause for concern.
It always begins post-Dussehra, where images of a burning Ravana becomes a surprisingly apt symbol for the way your lungs feel when you take a deep breath in. Smokers will begin joking about how brave they are by smoking a cigarette, despite the average air quality being the rough equivalent of smoking 7–10 cigarettes a day. Non-smokers will begin grumbling about how their pristine lungs are being poisoned while wearing air pollution masks and bursting fire-crackers to “celebrate Diwali”. Everyone’s complaining but nothing ever seems to improve, so let’s try to understand why.
I have a couple of theories. While we do cough and sputter, get headaches and colds, all because of the air we breathe, I feel Delhi people actually enjoy the Smog. Why? It’s an easy target to just blame everything on.
For all Delhiites, smog has ceased to become something to fear, something to hide away and worry about. Just the other day, I met some friends who were making fun of people who (god forbid) had decided to save their lungs by wearing air pollution masks.
“Inki itni phat thi ki yeh log masks pehen rahe hai, lol.”
(These people are so scared (of the air) that they are wearing masks, lol)
Then on the other hand, we have the Delhiites, for whom the concept of smog has begun to represent something different, something strangely romantic. Like a cancer that you slowly begin to love each day that it consumes you. Far from being something to be worried about, the smog has now become an annual reminder that Delhi’s much loved winter is around the corner. That it’s now time to bust out your dusty denim jackets and fur coats and beg the dry cleaners to clean it in time for the next party. That it’s time to begin enjoying unusually long chai breaks. Whether this is actually a reflection of the remarkable ability of Delhiites to adapt or something else far more sinister, nobody knows.
Jokes aside, whether the smog in Delhi will reach the infamous levels of 2017 or not, smog is no laughing matter. It actually becomes a source of worry when you begin accepting something bad for you as routine and normal, represented best by those viral pictures of people bursting firecrackers while wearing air pollution masks. Unlike Delhi’s Chief Minister, who is trying to blame everybody but Delhiites for the smoggy mess that Delhi finds itself in, it is time to take a deep look within and ask ourselves, “is this air really worth living through?” Let’s try to put an end to the finger pointing and begin making the change ourselves, by firstly, celebrating a clean Diwali.