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Friday, November 4, 2016

Some thoughts on the nature of our urban existence



                        Oh! Delhi.

November  is the cruelest month for Delhi and you may survive, if you lock yourself indoors, denying yourself the much needed fresh air ( such as it is, polluted several times over  beyond permissible limits! ) and sunlight(whatever miraculously  seeps  through the  blanket of haze, smoke and  dust  which must  now be declared  Delhi’s  official dress. As every year, the victory of the forces of good over evil was celebrated with great verve and vigour and to the accompaniment of lights and firecrackers raising the pollution level of ambient air to dangerous levels .The good won in spirit but the symbolic fight left those of us who have survived in flesh to cope with the consequences.

But as the saying goes ‘If the If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed Yesterday the ‘mountain’, - the ‘outside’- broke into my hideout, indoors, with full force. The living room felt like a traffic island on a busy city intersection, at peak hour and I escaped to the bedroom which I had sealed hermetically. My mind was somehow able to draw comfort from the thought that my recycled breath was better for me.  

 Newspapers report that to ease the situation, the Delhi administration plans to install air purifiers at the polluted hotspots. And then? Some more purifiers? We add flyways and road over bridges by the dozens every year but the problem of traffic congestion never seems to go away. After all you have to disgorge, regurgitate the sucked in impurities of the air at some point, or the volume of traffic clogging a narrow artery, somewhere. It is like chasing the infinite regress of images in a hall of mirrors and neighbourhoods are receding at an accelerated pace.

 To the survival kit of a bottle of mineral water the Delhite must now add a gas mask or the bottle of oxygen.  Uber is already promising a vertical takeoff landing aircraft at call. Within a year or two and, with some luck, the Delhite will encapsulate himself like the Bubble Boy David. Born in US in 1971 with severe combined  immunodeficiency (SICD), he  was, in  a manner of speaking, imprisoned in his specially constructed sterile plastic bubble, till he  died at the age of 12 ,because he was so inherently  fragile as to catch any  passing infection.

There is already a long list of health anxieties, but  Dengue  seems to be  uppermost on the list . I do not have to go far; the demonic energy and malevolence with which my daughter goes after the lone ,unfortunate,and  vagrant mosquito or anything small and minuscule that takes to wings, is proof enough of what is on the mind of every doting mother.  Whenever  we go out ,along with my grand children, I also get my quota of protective armour of Odomos. I suffer the elaborate  ritual ceremony  for warding off  Dengue  quite sportingly .

 Even though Bharati  Nagar, near the posh Lodhi Colony and  home to senior civil servants  , is one of the better off areas of Delhi it  has reported cases.Dengue and Chikengunya   seem to have unmistakably  a  Marxist lineage ; they attack privilege.  People who live in cleaner surroundings  are their inevitable target. As further proof of their distinguished  ancestry   these mosquitoes  can  live and breed only  in enclaves of privilege  - clean stagnant water in desert coolers , flower pots etc. Fetid drains, or polluted water bodies  cannot sustain  the Dengue population.

 Hardly four or five, out of nearly  3500,  strains of mosquitoes  have any  hostile design on us , yest mosquitoes have become the universal enemy of mankind – or that species  of  homo sapiens which inhabits our part of the earth. Wholesale extermination  of the mosquitoes is high on human agenda  because that is how the modern man  likes to fight his enemies. The  epic fight of man  and   mosquito  goes on  everyday, everywhere   here in Delhi,  in slums and areas cut off from  municipal services as well as in the posh government colonies where  fogging machines trail clouds of gas, potentially lethal for dengue infected mosquitoes . Luckily for  the mosquitoes the humans are far too clumsy.They  just cannot manage the en masse  extinction !

With the onset of winter, we are beginning to put the fear of Dengue and Chikungunia behind us but the resurgent malaria is an ever present threat  and cannot be written off. But then  what are we to do about  the mischievous,  shape shifting  virus who are the cause of so much misery   by way of  giving us flu. ? They are hugely  inventive  and  slip through the  safety net of  anti flu vaccine  in a different disguise.  And they have no fear of  antibiotics.  We have for so long distrusted our own antibodies that we repose absolute faith in the antibiotics; there is one for every occasion. They are our savior and if they let us down, then God help us.

In the meanwhile the people who could have made a difference to our prospects in our fight against pollution and  the minuscule enemies, Mr.Kejariwal and the Mr. Najeeb Jung, the CM and the LG  are making it worse . Locked in a do or die battle, they   contribute  acrimonious decibels and   fire and brimstone  to an already vexed situation.  Mr. Kejariwal declared sometime back  that  there was a high level threat to his life . He did not elaborate , however ,whether it would be delivered via an infected  mosquito or through other traditional means. In their inactivity  they  spur the courts to hyperactivity- higher courts are busy  sorting out  the issues that  the  combatants  raise against each other. Of course all at tax payers’ expense and time!


Murari Prasad said...

We'll-written. Eminently engaging as well. A minor quibble, though. A missing constituent in the penultimate sentence leaves part of it dangling. I may well be wrong!

Manoje Nath said...

Murari, nothing seems to escape your critical gaze but it would have been worthwhile if you had put your finger right there so that I would have set it right . Thanks any way.

Murari Prasad said...

In their inactive...[?] they... .
It should read 'well-written' in the earlier comment. Computers too get temperamental.

Murari Prasad said...

I guess the sense being suggested is: in their complete insouciance/ inactivity or something similar to it to anchor the tenor of the passage. I shouldn't cavil about this trivial/ inadvertent slip, but I felt drawn to the power and quiet belligerence of the piece. Much kudos to you!

Manoje Nath said...

Inactive - inactvity. Corrected. Thanks.