Choking

That’s the feeling I woke up with, around an hour ago. It’s taking much more effort for me to breathe. My nose appears partly blocked, and I’m unable to clear it. My tonsils itch, and squeeze my eyes together to stop a sneeze or a cough. Probably both. I take a couple of short, unconscious breaths and then I take a long, deep breath, involuntarily. That is followed by a cough, and an itch around my tonsil area. There’s a weight on my shoulders, probably out of lack of rest. In between the deep breaths, I clear my nose and tonsils, but that doesn’t help. Last night, there was a bout of incessant coughing: a short, dry cough that wouldn’t stop. I’ve made the mistake of stepping out of my room, and not keeping a pollution mask on. Now I need to leave this city. I can’t breathe.

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I’ve got the entire setup: plants that remove toxins, air purifiers that remove particulate matter. A purifier at home, and another in the office. I’ve been trying to get a new HEPA filter for the purifier, but the company isn’t taking calls. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re out of stock.

My brother’s running the half marathon today: something he and I had both signed up for. I realized last month how bad things were going to get in Delhi, and dropped out. Yesterday, I skipped going to my favorite event of the year – the NH7 music festival – and I’ll have to give it a miss again today. I briefly stepped outside – close to home – to a literature festival, and found that I couldn’t stay outdoors for too long. A pollution mask still raises eyebrows, but I fear: not for long.

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All of this makes me wonder if I’m more fragile; the exhaustion compounds doubts. It makes me less effective at work: I’m doing less in more time. I have moments where I’m my usual aggressive self believing that I can get something done, and then unconsciously, I begin feeling tired and procrastinate and eventually give up. The list of things I have to do feels overwhelming – it usually is, but I always find a way of dealing with it: I always find solutions, sharpen my focus, and get shit done. Over the past few days, I’ve been repeatedly thinking about giving up, or stepping away for bit, because of this constant, incessant exhaustion. But will I be able to come back fighting again? For once, instead of blaming myself, I ought to realize that it’s the environment. It might take a few weeks to get that clarity and drive back, but it won’t come back while I’m here. I knew that earlier in the month, when I fled to Kerala and Bangalore. That time away from the pollution and exhaustion made me overconfident: I knew that, like last year, November-end was going to be worse, and I still came back. You can’t beat quicksand by staying in it. I need to get out.

I’m chronicling this today to remind myself next year of how bad it gets, so I won’t make the mistake of coming back too soon. Which leads me to the other important question: should I move out of Delhi, and if so, where do I go? Getting out of Delhi is one thing…should I stay out? The one thing on my mind is the high entry barrier for moving, and the hours it adds to your day when you’re not staying with immediate family. The efficiency that brings is something I’m not keen on losing, but I’ve done this before. Perhaps I can do this again. I’m not unfamiliar with the idea of starting over…though I’m still not sure.

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7 Comments

  1. Same situation here, its terrible. Evenings are super hazy, I am planning the same – to leave Delhi – its not easy though! But I have some feedback from Mumbai, in our new high rise office – we have a open air pantry on 14th floor. I was out there and I could see so much haze all over the place – it was terrible. But Pondicherry and Chennai were perfect, the color of the sky was different. Everything was so clear. Someone came from Singapore for a meeting around a month back, he called me from the airport and told me there is lot of fog but its not cold – I told him its not fog, its all smog. He is originally from China, and he told me some harrowing tales of how Bejing and some of the places are suffering due to air pollution. Effect on lungs and cases of lung cancer. But my biggest surprise is no one cares, it is a rare topic of discussion. It comes up and goes, then its all about big boss, mobile phones, cars, intolerance debate and other things…

  2. When you have much to contribute, you have a duty to protect your health, safety.

    Few emigrate because they don’t love their home, culture-but it’s too darn hard to go on!

    Come to America!

  3. > My nose appears partly blocked, and I’m unable to clear it. My tonsils itch, and squeeze my eyes together to stop a sneeze or a cough. Probably both. I take a couple of short, unconscious breaths and then I take a long, deep breath, involuntarily. That is followed by a cough, and an itch around my tonsil area.

    That’s exactly how I feel these days when I wake up. I don’t even have any breathing issues normally. Let me know if you figure out someway to deal with this madness.

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