It was a conscious, well-planned decision to move back to my hometown (Delhi) in 2008.
Bengaluru was my first stint away from home. The learning days at IISc and satisfying career in an investment bank were exciting. Bengaluru had it all – cooler climes (this was more than one and a half-decade back), a gang of friends, weekend expeditions and my then-boyfriend (now husband).
But Delhi was ‘home’.
It was where I wanted my life to be . . . I was sure then.
So, I started anew in Delhi, made amazing new friends, got married, became a mother; and somewhere in the middle, we became Gurgaonites.
Then it came all crashing down in 2016.
It started with one innocuous cough in the middle of the night, waking me up, and for a moment, I was unable to breathe. I clutched onto anything I could lay my hands on as my lungs squeezed the life out of me.
I felt as if the whole world was able to hear my heart banging on the walls of my chest as I fought the bouts of cough, clueless of what had hit me.
The diagnosis was all too simple – it was ‘allergic cough’.
Reason – air pollution.
But since then, I have been on inhalers/anti-allergic meds, made serious lifestyle upgrades, changed diet, visited numerous ayurvedic, naturopathic, homeopathic practitioners who promised a cure of my malaise.
And have added Montair Fx to the list of the deities I worship.
Pollution, especially air pollution, which was till that fateful October night, a news article for us, became the harsh reality my family and I have been living with ever since.
And it is not a seasonal affair, though it starts in winters, the miseries continue whole year round (barring monsoon months).
The mother inside me cries every day when I see my little one struggle with a blocked nose or choked throat day after day.
My kid is a chain-smoker you see, just because he breathes in the air of the city of smogs.
Every time my child asks to go out and play, I check the pollution status. We are now used to pollution breaks in school!
Even though his school is 2 KM away, we do not let him cycle to school given the pollution levels. The group of friends with whom I did early morning yoga in the park, disbanded one morning in 2018 when our lungs gave up. So, we stopped our fitness regime.
It is an adjusted life that we live.
Did we choose this life for ourselves?
Policymakers fling phrases like “gas chamber”, “toxic smog”, “breathing 8-30 cigarettes a day”. To what end?
Is living a zombie life the ultimate price I have to pay to live in the city I love and grew up in?
Over the years, many friends have left the NCR. We, my parents and my family, are contemplating to move too.
We have consciously not bought a house in Gurgaon because of the pollution issue which has rendered the city unliveable.
Perhaps the unsold flats of ghost townships will someday instill some sense into the policymakers to realise that cities are more than fancy apartments and 6-lane roads.
Written by Anjali Sharma
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)