‘I Carry A Face Forever Smeared With Soot’

Sanjay Kumar, 28, spends the better part of his day driving a 125cc bike, delivering food in Gurgaon NCR. Exposure to dust and diesel fumes has given him severe cough and congestion. But, he asks LokMarg, what other options does he have other than continuing as long as he can?

I work 12 hours a day, negotiating traffic on the busy roads of Gurgaon. My job is to ensure timely delivery of food items from restaurants to customers. Who has the time to stop and think about air pollution? My day starts at 10 am and continues till midnight. Throughout the day, I make hundreds of rounds between restaurants, homes and offices of the Millennium City.

Such is the air in the city, a mix of dust, carbon particles and diesel fumes, that I have to regularly wash my face to get rid of a sticky soot. By the time I reach home, a thick coat of dust covers my 125 cc bike and my shirt’s collar.

Even in summer, I wear a thin windcheater to guard my shirt from dust. You don’t need a tool to gauge the pollution level in the city, I breath it day in and day out; the dull grey skies of NCR and my dust-laden bike are telltale signs. The air is poisonous and I know it, but do I have an option? The situation gets tougher during traffic jams. Car owners might get some protection from pollution behind closed doors and glasses but bikers are completely exposed to the elements.

If my lungs were to be sliced open, I am sure you would probably find a black lump of flesh trying to pump some air. My chest is perennially congested. Sometimes I spit out phlegm that has black strains. This scares me but I don’t have money to consult a doctor. In any case, if the doctor advised to avoid riding a bike, can I heed it? I do not want to be robbed of whatever I little I have earned till date. Itni kamayi nahi jitney doctor le lega (The doctor will charge me more than what I earn). He will first ask to conduct several tests followed by expensive medicine.

Escaping air pollution is not an option for me. I have surrendered to its ill effects. As for my health problems, I will continue till I am able to move around. None of the delivery boys wear any pollution masks. I doubt that these masks even help! A handkerchief tied over our nostrils might just be as good. When you are exposed to poison in the air 24/7, then what can you do to fight it? Sadly, neither the government nor the people of this city are doing enough to save their own lives. We are all dying a slow death.

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