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Posted at: Nov 11, 2017, 2:15 AM; last updated: Nov 11, 2017, 2:15 AM (IST)BREATHLESS

That’s poison in your lungs

Tribune News Service

Four days back, Dileep Singh introduced an addition to his routine. Before dusting his kiosk, prior to washing tea glasses and putting water on stove, he sits down to read a vernacular newspaper. He skips all pages to turn to the weather forecast, hoping for the impending rain. "I know only rain can settle this smoke," says Dileep, a tea vendor, who has been selling tea in Ghanta Ghar area of Ludhiana for the last 10 years.

His general knowledge about the connection between rain and smoke is recent. "A customer told me about it after I complained of my eyes hurting." His experiences with smog have also resulted in bouts of cough and headache. But his health condition is not on his mind. It is not for this that he grabs a newspaper early in the morning. "I would easily make Rs 1,000 a day by selling over 300 cups of tea. Now, it is down to hundred." With winter setting in, he expected more sales, more profit. "But people want to rush indoors. Who wants to have tea amid pollution? One can even see the smoke settle in water that I use to make tea." He doesn't know the cause behind the smog or that it is even called so. Try telling him the reasons, and he seems disinterested.

But then, he asks the pertinent question, something that all sufferers want to know, "Will all winters to come be like this? Will there ever be a winter rain when it is most needed?" Here are some others pitting the same question and seeking an answer.

Mukesh Kumar, Traffic constable, posted at ITO, one of Delhi’s busiest spots

“We wear masks at work, but I am not sure how helpful they are as a lot of air can enter our mouths from the sides. We try and seal then tightly too, but then they become very uncomfortable to use while we are on duty. A lot of cops suffer from breathing problems and have been suggested use of nasal filters. However, they provide only short-term relief. While the traffic is floating, cops at the lights have to be there as long as duty hours last. And for the last few days, I feel even the mask is not helping me.”

Ram Ashray, Auto driver, resides in Sangam Vihar, South Delhi

“I have been driving an auto-rickshaw for more than 10 years and this is for the first time that I have seen such thick smog after Diwali. I am 50 and cannot take such pollution at this age. The government forced us to use Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to reduce pollution and we complied. However,  in spite of that, auto drivers are the worst sufferers due to pollution. I bought a mask for Rs 50, but that is also not helping me breathe properly. I have now started soaking my hankie in water and use it to cover my nose and mouth.”

Mandeep Kaur

Asthma patient from Amritsar

“I don’t venture out of the house unless it is essential. Come what may, I stay indoors in the morning as that is when asthmatic patients are most vulnerable. When I go out to attend my coaching class, I wear a disposable mask. My doctor says my medical history is a unique example of the deteriorating immediate environment. I didn’t have this problem till three years ago. But I then began to feel some congestion and trouble in breathing. The doctors told me that I was suffering from asthma. Stubble burning and air pollution are driving people like me towards asthma.”

Harpreet Singh Gill

Athlete from Ludhiana

“Smog has disrupted my sports practice and schedule. When you go out in the open, eyes sting. There is irritation. Visibility is reduced.  You just do not feel like practising because working out in the open makes you uncomfortable. Mornings are bad. Evenings are no better. Many sportspersons have rescheduled their practice hours. Also, the rigorous practice is less intense now.”

Zarina (6); Joel (7); Aayushi (7) School students from Delhi

“We wear masks when outside and keep our doors and windows shut. We also use air purifiers at home, which are helping to a large extent. But the pollution is so intense that one air purifier is not sufficient. In our schools, sports activities have been stopped for the time being. Some children in my class have been facing breathing problems or coughing persistently.” — Zarina

“I am not allowed to go out to play, both at home and at school. I didn’t even celebrate Diwali this year because I was told by my class teacher that if we don't burst crackers, pollution levels will come down. I don't see any change as yet and wrap a handkerchief around my face every morning. It is so uncomfortable. My eyes too keep burning while I am out.” — Joel

“Earlier, I was told to drink water only from water purifier as drinking water got polluted. Now my parents cover my face with mask everyday before I head to school. In the evening, I am not allowed to go out because of air pollution. I have not been going for my dance classes for the last two days . Now, I have asked my father to leave Delhi and shift to some place that is pollution free and where children can play in the open.” — Aayushi 

Inputs from Minna Zutshi, Ashima Sehajpal Batish, Prateek Chauhan, Neeraj Bagga

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