The roads of the capital are shrouded in a haze. The toxicity of the air is at many times the permitted level by global standards. International flights are being cancelled. Visiting cricket teams refuse to play on our fields. Schools are often closed. Simply breathing in Delhi is now equivalent to smoking around 40 cigarettes a day.
We act as if we had not expected this occurrence and cannot understand how to solve it. We purchase face masks and air purifiers and grumble about the air. We wait for it to pass. But it never passes, because the air is toxic all year round. Only for a very short period, in the rainy season, does the amount of particulate matter dip to permissible levels. As a father, I am deeply concerned about the permanent damage being done to my three-year-old daughter’s health, as indeed to the health of all the city’s children. Even the protection I can afford to provide my child, by travelling in the metro or in air-conditioned cars and having her sleeping with an air purifier at night, cannot shield her from all exposure to the air.
It makes me depressed to drive through this great capital when I see the streets and traffic intersections crowded with homeless people in rags, followed by children of three or four, banging on the windows of every passing car demanding alms, exposed to air of a toxicity I shudder to imagine. They have no air-conditioned cars or air purifiers, and are forced to employ all their time on the roads, begging for sustenance.