A journalist takes a smoke-break before filing a story on Delhi's ‘oxygen bar’
Thoughts of a journalist working in Delhi, who once tried to smoke through a pollution-mask.
I haven't breathed in a while. Not what you really call breathing. Like filling your lungs with fresh air and feel energetic about life. I doubt the air that I breathe in and I live in this constant air of suspicion. I try to go out less, especially without a pollution mask. I only sneak out of my office when I need a smoke. In fact, one day I tried smoking through my pollution mask. It was hilarious to my colleagues.
On odd (and even even) days Delhi looks a little like Pripyat. Pripyat, right after the Chernobyl disaster. A thick smog covering the city while people going about their business in weird masks. In the HBO miniseries, right when the scientists are trying to figure out if there is a crisis, they bring out their radiation meter. The needle goes as far as it can, and then stops. Stops because the radiation has gone beyond what the device can measure. Since the end of October, several times the measure of PM 2.5 in Delhi has gone beyond the usual point of 1000 in the Air Quality Index(AQI). Beyond what the index can measure.
There are memes of how 'kids smoke cigarettes, adults smoke cigars and legends breathe in Delhi', which I smile at while smoking. An app called 'Shit, I Smoke' tells me that breathing in Delhi is like smoking 33.2 cigarettes a day, which is scary because I try not to go beyond 10. Sometimes I can feel the PM 2.5 particles merging into my bloodstream. Nowadays I have even started enjoying this 'burnt-leaf' smell when I go out. I try to think it's the smell of Barbeque, and amazingly I get hungry and forget about the air.
What is life but a series of distractions? I guess that's what those 29 MPs also thought while missing the meeting on pollution called by a parliamentary panel. Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir apparently was in Indore shooting for a sports channel and munching on Jalebis. Can't blame him, even I would have gone for the jalebi instead of a boring meeting on pollution.
A post shared by VVS Laxman (@vvslaxman281) on Nov 14, 2019 at 7:53pm PST
The Chief Minister calls Delhi a 'gas chamber'. Immediately I try to think who is actually putting us in this gas chamber. We need a villain, right? I think my biggest frustration is that I can't find the villain. I tried hating the farmers of Punjab and Haryana like Arvind Kejriwal asked me to, I tried hating those stupid people who burn crackers on Diwali, I tried hating people who drive cars, but then my hate didn't matter. For the first time, I can't buy my way out of a health disaster. None of us can. This upsets me so much that I go on a rampage of smoking cigarettes. I stop only when I feel like crying.
My boss has asked me to file a story on how an 'Oxygen Bar' in Saket is providing pure air for 15 minutes in exchange for 299 rupees. A colleague had also been there. I asked him how it was, he said it was amazing. "Before taking the pure air in lemongrass flavour, I was feeling this nagging headache and unease in my chest, but after that, I am a new person", said Deepak Ji. He has lived all his life in Delhi. We go for smokes together.
I am yet to file the story. Maybe even I'd go experience what the bar is like, after all, I haven't breathed in a while.
It's not 'like' dystopia, it is dystopia. The joke is on me, but let me catch my breath.