In my 15 years of living in Delhi, never have I questioned my choice of being here. Not when they raise questions on the safety of women here, not when they touted it as a ‘show off’ culture, not when they declared its people rude and crude. And that has not been without a reason — for all its flaws, the city has given me and my family what no other city in this country could, and that is reason enough for me to be faithful to it.
But in the last two days, for the first time in 15 years, I have started to question my future in Delhi. For the first time being a resident of Delhi is giving me sleepless nights. For what I see outside the window is outright scary — not only for me but also, and more importantly, for my children.
Not many years ago November was the most looked forward to month in the capital.
It was the time when flowers bloomed and festivals happened. It was the time of weddings and celebrations, of loitering in beautiful sunshine and nippy breeze. Of sports days and annual festivals. November was the month of joy and happiness. ‘Dilli ki gulabi sardi’ as they would call it (the nippy winter of Delhi) was famous through the country — and abroad.
And that is how I had left it when I went to Bangalore some years ago — and that is what I expected to return to when I came back, disappointed with the capricious weather of the garden city.
What I found however shocked me. The sky outside my 9th floor window was grey. The air was dense. No, it was not the winter setting in (I did returned in November) but something totally different. At that time I had thought of it as a one off incident. I was wrong.
For the past six years since, November has become the most dreadful month of the year. The time when people think thrice before stepping out of the house or leaving their windows open. The annual functions have shifted inside of air-conditioned auditoriums and the sports days are called off for want of better air. (Funny that we should keep the a/c on and expect the air outside to be clean). Kids wear masks to school, morning walkers tie hankies on their faces. And through all this the people and the government sit doing nothing.
Who is responsible for this, you ask. The answer is: you. And I. And each one of us who has lived in this city. That person who drives to the neighborhood shop rather than walk, and that one who prefers hailing an Uber rather than taking the metro. And also those who buy car after car, make buildings after buildings. Those who believe that making roads is more important than having trees line the streets, having penthouses in suburbs is cooler than having farms in the countryside.
I don’t think that day is far when there’d be no food to eat and no air to breathe. In that way we’d become the moon or mars — no need to travel all the way to those places.
But that is if we live to see that day.