The early winter nip and the choking pollution

There’s little nip in the air. Feel like hugging the blanket little longer in the morning, soaking in the sweet sunshine (whenever there’s sun that is)!

Early winters, I remember the dip in temperature and soft morning dew used to make me so happy once. There was something special about winters, especially the pleasant and gentle early winter. As a girl in Agartala, it was all about feeling the touch of morning dew on the leaves and green grass, clear blue sky, golden sunlight touching my face and melting the morning dew, sitting on the sunlit terrace after school, enjoying the winter veggies, hot milk and other delicacies. Mom would take the woolens out, repair the old sweaters, knit new ones. Dad would get jhola gur (runny jaggery) and fresh oranges from the nearby farms. Often after school we would sit on the terrace and have peanuts and oranges.

After Agartala, I spent two years in Hyderabad. Winters were just pleasant there. Nights would get cold, but days were warm, I somehow missed the chill. Moving to Delhi soon after Hyderabad in early 2000, exposed me to different kind of winter all together. I was completely engulfed in the Delhi fog. Since Hyderabad was not that cold, I didn’t have enough woolens. My cousin took to me shopping to Sarojini Nagar and Dilli Haat for warm clothes and shoes. That was the time when my fashion sense was at its peak though the budget was very limited. I had just started my first job with a meagre salary of Rs. 5000/- and I wanted to buy the whole world with it. I soon realized there were many other expenses besides fashionable clothes, shoes and purses, yet fashion could not be comprised. Hence, being fashionably turned out in winters took many hours of pushing through the crowd in Sarojini Nagar. Finally, I was very happy with the result. I would walk through the dense fog every mornings in my fashionable Sarojini Nagar jackets and boots and then take a DTC bus to work.

Smoggy Gurgaon sky, caputured by my colleague Arjun

I loved the Delhi fogs. There was something mysterious and romantic about them. The feeling on numbness, the low visibility, wondering what lay ahead. On weekends I would spend hours staring dreamily at the foggy landscape, watching the feeble lazy sun finally rise and melt the fog. I so loved hanging out in Dilli Haat and Sarojini Nagar, enjoying steaming momos and hot pakodas and chai. Then, before I knew it, the romantic fog suddenly turned into dirty and polluted smog. The cold air that we once enjoyed and breathed in freely started choking us. We started dreading the dull grey sky. And the saddest part is, we all know what’s causing the deadly pollution, technologies are available but there is absolutely no political will or bureaucratic will to act. We common plebeians’ crib and cry on social media and continue to suffer. There isn’t much we can do any way except voice our opinions, but unfortunately no one’s listening. A friend of mine has developed respiratory problems because of the pollution and has been advised by his doctor to leave the millennium city Gurgaon. “I can’t just leave for three months. My company’s not going to pay me,” he exclaims and continues to suffer.

And what worst tragedy or irony or SHAME is we kept our children locked up at home on Children’s Day. Talking about her 9 nine-year-old daughter’s reaction when she learnt school was shut on Children’s Day, a friend of mine said, “My daughter was all excited last evening. They go to school in colorful outfits of Children’s Day. She was so upset when I told her there will be no school today. ‘Why can’t you control AQI?’, she asked. I didn’t know what to tell her.” Air that you can’t breathe in, is that the gift we are giving our kids on Children’s Day? Is this the legacy we are leaving behind?

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