#Toxic Air IX – ‘Fresh Air Is Luxury For Me’
Working amid sawdust, carpenter Lalu Sharma, 40, moans the fact that he has traded the fresh air of his village for a better livelihood in the city. But has the quality of life got truly better, he often wonders. I remember the air in my village –pristine, pure and fresh. One long, deep breath, early in the morning would recharge me and set the tone for the rest of the day. It is not possible in big cities, where the vehicles never stop running, where the air is laden with dust and pollutants. But the life and the air of big cities has now seeped into small-town India. Since I have grown up in a village, breathing fresh air, I can feel the difference in the air more acutely, more pronouncedly, unlike big city people. Air pollution has started scarring everyone’s lives. A craftsman like me, who has to work extensively with wood is probably impacted more. I work at a furniture shop as a carpenter and have been in this profession for nearly two decades now. Twenty years ago, I did not pay much attention to my health — there was not much to worry about except the large amount of sawdust that went into my system. Every day I single-handedly cut several pieces of wood –from small furniture to big wooden doors. Besides dealing with the sawdust, I have to put up with the nauseating smell of chemicals; and the ear-splitting sounds of machines. Now, apart from these work hazards, I have to worry about the growing levels of pollutants in the air. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. After these stressful work hours, I want to breathe clean, fresh air –but that has become a distant dream. Pollution from growing number of vehicles, toxic fumes from garbage dumps and the hazards at work, have probably shortened my life. My colleagues and I suffer from burning eyes, sensitive skin, and increased sensitivity to sound and smell after work-hours. Cough is also a constant companion, especially during the winters. Since I work with wood, I understand how precious our trees are. I also take care to dispose off the sawdust and other waste from our shop properly. I try to make sure that I put every piece of wood to good use, so that nothing goes waste. I try and initiate conversations around green living if I see a sensitive customer. And I try to keep it short, succinct and light. For every tree that is cut, a tree should be planted. I have to earn a living, but that doesn’t mean I can’t care about the environment in my own little way. The need of the hour is to live in harmony with nature — and I know for sure that we are running out of time.