Gas Chamber: Mayur Sharma saw it coming

Winter is no longer the sole season of despair in the Capital and its NCR hinterland, home to 46 million living and breathing human beings, as much as all of Spain.  Some people, however, didn’t wait to find out. Celebrity food enthusiast Mayur Sharma was one, quitting the city he was born and lived in for clean air. His story:  

 
It’s been around a year and I think this is the best decision I have ever made. We had been thinking about leaving Delhi for a long time but it was in the pollution-shock winter of 2016 that we pulled our kids from school and and lived in Goa for the three months — November, December, January — when the air was really bad. We moved to a rented house in Goa. Moving even for three months was not an easy task as we had to uproot ourselves. We took the decision that at least my wife and children are going to move out of this gas chamber, move to a cleaner environment for a period of two to three months till January when the air is really bad. We came back here after that because the kids had to finish school. However, after returning to Delhi, we came to the decision that it was time to say bye to this city. And in August 2017, we finally moved. My kids were very young – the older one in Class 3 and the younger in Class 1. They had a lot of friends in the neighbourhood and were very young – born, brought up and started schooling here and us too – though we grew up in a different Delhi. I was leaving a house I’d stayed in since 1976, which I shared with my parents. We had quite a life here but then there – in Goa – when you breathe the clean air and drive through the lush green fields, you know it is different. So yeah, I was very happy with my decision. Though, it invariably meant a lot of travelling for me. But I was anyway doing it – just added a bit more to it. A lot of our friends are already inquiring about it – four or five couples that I know have already moved. And more of them are considering it – things are slowly gaining pace in Goa. There are lot of good school options there – our focus was not that – oh, we can’t move because education might suffer but that is not a concern anymore. Delhi is my city – I was born here, I grew up here, I wish I could be there for it. I mean, the right to breathe is the most fundamental right more than food, more than water. And that right is being seriously compromised right now. I know of people who have started a whatsapp group and share concerns about the city. I know the government, the administration; the people want to do something for the city and focusing on it and making it a big deal – which it is – so I know all hope is not lost. But I don’t think I will want to come back to this city. Even if the government takes an initiative and cleans it nice some day, it will be difficult coming back. There is not just one issue – there are several. Corruption, there is no option for school, safety – they are equally important. There are multiple practical solutions and they have been debated to death in the last few years. I have seen some very sensible people talk about it but they have to be implemented. Vested interests have to be kept aside as I believe everything is possible you if you get down to doing it.
 

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Gas Chamber: 'Delhi's air is killing us all'

For 38-year-old Dr Balvinder Singh, it was the concern about the long-term health of his two daughters that led him to pack up and leave the Capital and the hard-to-get job he had there. He lives and works in Udhampur now, a life that is fresh in more ways than one.

 
It was a tough decision for me to quit my job at the prestigious Central government hospital Safdarjung and move to Jammu and Kashmir. People work really hard to get an opportunity to work at Safdarjung, but I said goodbye to this premier institution in order to save my family. I was staying with my wife and two little daughters in the Safdarjung campus but I could not risk the life of my family by staying in Delhi further. Delhi’s air is slowly killing us all, and I am saying this from my experience as a doctor. I have seen patients with severe lung infections, breathing issues and multiple other problems which are either caused due to inhaling poisonous air or get aggravated by it. I made the decision to quit Delhi in 2016 when smog had choked the city, and we finally shifted out in April 2017. The smog that covered the entire city in a blanket of thick smoke was a warning of us. It is impossible to think to ask my kid to stay at home or to wear a mask before leaving home. There is a constant fear that an invisible killer is outside waiting ready to attack anyone. The question I faced was: what kind of life am I going to give to my family? We now live in Udhampur. Delhi’s maddening traffic and poisonous air made me find a job in a state-run hospital before shifting there. The decision to move was not easy for the family but I did it to ensure a healthy life for my two-year- and six-month-old daughters. It was tough to leave our friends and colleagues back in Delhi and start a fresh life, but we should also accept that we are blessed by God to get this life and it is our responsibility to be fit and healthy. Children are most vulnerable of us all as Delhi’s air can cause everlasting respiratory problems. After a few years when I will see my kids healthy, the relocation will have been the right decision.
 
 
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‘Delhi’s dust gave me lasting eye damage’

Mayur Sharma saw it coming


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Gas Chamber: 'Delhi gave me eye damage'

For 33-year-old journalist Shashank, shifting to Delhi 12 years ago was a good career move. The dust that hangs over the Capital’s roads, however, gave this young man permanent eye damage. He’s had to almost quit biking, one of his loves. His story:

 
It has been 12 years since I shifted to the national capital. Having completed my graduation from Kolkata, I shifted base to Delhi in July 2006. And the city became my home. Sadly, however, the city that gave me a new life and a new perspective also took away part of the vision in my left eye. But then it’s not the city which is to be blamed but its ever-increasing, toxin-rich pollution that left its mark on me in the shape of a permanent scar on the cornea of my left eye. The problem was first detected two years back when both my eyes began to remain watery and red. I was advised some eye-drops but to no relief. My vision was blurred and I was unable to open my eye in bright light. An advanced scan led to the discovery of two damaged layers in my left eye. Now I permanently wear glasses and have a -2.7 correction in my left eye. It’s impossible to step outside without sunglasses as my eye is now too sensitive for bright sunlight. How this problem started is the real shocker. It’s right in front of us but nobody never taken it seriously. If you drive in Delhi, you are well aware of the dust or sand that is encountered on the road, especially Ring Road. These dust particles are the main components of Particulate Matter (PM10) in the immediate environment. I’m an avid biker, and I have always made sure of using a good quality helmet and other protective gear. The dust was getting through all the time, even though I had started splashing water in my eyes as a rule after every ride. Rubbing my eyes, a spontaneous reaction,  made the situation worse. Over a period of time, I developed a permanent scar in one eye, and there it will remain for life. I have to be a part of this city — my family, friends and career are here. So I wear glasses all the time and have cut down on biking. Delhi’s pollution is silently killing us all every day and it’s high time we sit up, take note and act.
 

More from the Gas Chamber

Mayur Sharma saw it coming

‘Delhi’s air is killing us all’


—With Lokmarg  ]]>