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.
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.
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.