Run to the third floor of your apartment or office building through stairs and the breathlessness and strain on the lungs you feel is exactly how Asthma and patients of other lung ailments feel every moment they breathe in pollution with their shrinking lungs.
I have spent last two months in the ICU corridors and hospital wards just to ensure that my mother can breathe and come back to life. She is fighting a lung infection that has left her on oxygen support since 23 August 2017.
A month in ICU and more than 19 days in the ward and she is still breathless. On 22 September, as I ran to the third floor ICU of the hospital after an announcement in my mother's name, I was numb and gasping for breath.
“Take care of your lungs, young lady. What you are feeling right now is how your mother has been feeling every moment for the last one month,” said the doctor who had called for me to get a consent form signed.
What he did not tell me was how I’m supposed to do that in a city like Bangalore which is covered in smog nine months a year. How do I ensure that the smoke and the pollution does not enter my lungs as I step out of my house to earn a living to be able to pay the hospital bills?
My mom is not asthmatic by birth, she developed it over the years. We bought air purifiers and largely restricted her to indoors to avoid her contact with ‘fresh air’. I don't know how many of you eagerly wait for Diwali or how you prepare for the festivities. For us, it is mostly about sealing the doors, getting mom on steroids, nebulising her several times and desperately waiting for Diwali to get over.
On Diwali, mom is confined to her room with the doors and windows locked, but the smoke is ruthless, shameless and brutal. It penetrates and engulfs our seventh floor apartment.
The Supreme Court of India has now placed a ban on selling crackers on Diwali.
As I read the newspaper headline to my mother a few days ago, I saw a sparkle in her eyes. What I did not read to her were the rest of the headlines that raised questions over the ban and most importantly, on how un-implementable it was.
What I will never tell her is that a Twitter campaign #WakeUpHindus is now calling for defying the SC ban. That an army of 'Religious Rights Activists’ have raised the slogan- Ab ki baar Pathakhon ki Bharmaar.
Yes, a ban is not the solution. Yes, the legislature and not the judiciary should initiate a restriction on such things. Yes, the call for the control should ultimately come from the public and the pollution that increases manifold on Diwali is still alarming much before and after Diwali.
BUT till the consensus happens and we derive the most democratic and feasible solution on earth, how do many, many, many like my mom hold on? To all those who are tirelessly engaged in a #FirecrackerDebate, to those whose religious freedoms feel restricted, and to those whose sentiments are hurt, I must tell you; a 45 kg oxygen cylinder lasts for 24 hours AND your time starts now.
(The writer is a full-time journalist who has always found it hard to balance life between care-giving and writing on issues that affect us. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough to breathe polluted air? Join hands with FIT in partnership with #MyRightToBreathe to find a solution to pollution. Send in your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp @ +919999008335.)