The mix of smoke and fog, fashionably called smog, is much maligned these days. Delhi is choking, according to the headlines. The truth is only asthma patients are being inconvenienced. The average Delhiite has robust lungs. He has got good practice. He has been nourished by Blue Line buses for decades and massaged by the fine Badarpur and its lovely power plant. Those living along Najafgarh Nallah take in an additional aroma. Practice makes one perfect.
While PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels are apparently off the scale, Delhi should be glad to be the number one city in the world in anything. It's quite dubious as distinctions go, but every coin has two sides. And this pollution has a bright side too. Not a sunny side because Delhi hasn't seen the sun this week thanks to the thick air hanging over the entire NCR. Here are some pointers to lift your morale, since the smog refuses to lift:
1. Come on baby light my fire
There is nothing new about people inhaling smoke. Those cribbing about farmers burning farm stubble are infamous for burning garbage and autumn leaves. Besides, smoke is not always bad. The government organises for smoking the mosquitos out every year. Every time some evil defeats us, we defeat it by organising yagna. We have havan to make Trump the US president. There is smoke all over the place in the national capital, because capitals have stuff to hide. Smokescreen is another thing. There is no smoke without fire. What is life without a little fire!
Somebody said Delhi's air resembles that of a post-war city. One, you can see the air. Miracle, no? Photo: Reuters
2. Free smoke
In non-smog seasons, non-smoking Delhiites smoke about 20 cigarettes a day. Thanks to the smog, it has gone up to 50 cigarettes a day. If you are a smoker, that's a bad air day and you have been drinking too much. But post-GST, cigarettes have become even more expensive. Now a pack of Classic regular costs 300 bucks flat. Fifty cancer sticks would cost you Rs 750. Smog offers you free smoking. Children can smoke without disapproving adults frowning at them. And everyone is smoking in no-smoking areas.
3. Mother nature, great leveller
People of Anand Vihar and Dilshad Garden have been inhaling PM 2.5 for ages. There are areas in the national capital region where people inhale polluted air 24X7X365. But since we are all Mother Nature's children, she decided to give her GK children the taste of the Loni air because mothers tend not to discriminate among their children. Now Vasant Vihar gets her share of PM 10 that Naya Bans has been hogging all the year. The air purifiers are a sham at this level. The traffic constable's mask is now adorning the face of the guy inside that Merc.
4. Disaster drill
Bhopal had a gas tragedy, thousands died. They had regular lungs that couldn't cope with poisonous gas of industrial strength. May we never have that kind of disaster again. The NCR lung is getting a lot of practice to deal with unfortunate industrial disasters. Somebody said Delhi's air resembles that of a post-war city. One, you can see the air. Miracle, no? And two, you are prepared for war. With a neighbour like the one to the West, no one knows you know.
5. Learned lesson
Learned lesson is a popular, vulgar Delhi phrase. It means et cetera. A lesson read in a book is not worth the paper it is printed on. A lesson learned in the practicals class is not easy to forget. Delhi is a lab right now with all kinds of chemicals, fumes and particles floating in the air. We can touch and feel the pollution that is largely hidden rest of the year, killing us softly, on the sly. Nature hopes to teach us a lesson, by example. And we look in our pockets and discover we have not a flying one to give.
We learn nothing, zilch, nada. Year after year, around the same time, smog manifests itself and we pretend to act. And it goes away, laughing at our insouciance and false bravado. So, NGT, the Delhi government, the central government and those in Punjab and Haryana will now act like they are serious. That gives the authorities a lot of practice in acting. Bollywood may not recognise it, but Delhi has better acting talent than Mumbai. In our productions, we do not have the mandatory tag: Smoking is dangerous to your health. "Ye dhuan aapko beemar kar sakta hai, bahut beemar."