Oh Delhi!

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November is the cruelest month for Delhi and you may survive, if you lock yourself indoors, denying yourself the much needed fresh air (such as it is, polluted several times over beyond permissible limits!) and sunlight (whatever miraculously seeps through the blanket of haze, smoke and dust which must now be declared Delhi’s official dress).

As every year, the victory of the forces of good over evil was celebrated with great verve and vigour and to the accompaniment of lights and firecrackers raising the pollution level of ambient air to dangerous levels. The good won in spirit but the symbolic fight left those of us who have survived in flesh to cope with the consequences.

But as the saying goes: 'If Mohammed will not go to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed.' Yesterday the 'mountain', - the 'outside' - broke into my hideout, indoors, with full force. The living room felt like a traffic island on a busy city intersection, at peak hour and I escaped to the bedroom which I had sealed hermetically. My mind was somehow able to draw comfort from the thought that my recycled breath was better for me.

Newspapers report that to ease the situation, the Delhi administration plans to install air purifiers at the polluted hotspots. And then? Some more purifiers? We add flyways and road over-bridges by the dozens every year but the problem of traffic congestion never seems to go away. After all you have to disgorge, regurgitate the sucked in impurities of the air at some point, or the volume of traffic clogging a narrow artery, somewhere. It is like chasing the infinite regress of images in a hall of mirrors and neighbourhoods are receding at an accelerated pace.

To the survival kit of a bottle of mineral water, the Delhi'ites must now add a gas mask or the bottle of oxygen. Uber is already promising a vertical takeoff landing aircraft at call. Within a year or two and, with some luck, the Delhi'ite will encapsulate himself like the Bubble Boy David. Born in the US in 1971 with severe combined immunodeficiency (SICD), he was, in a manner of speaking, imprisoned in his specially constructed sterile plastic bubble, till he died at the age of 12 ,because he was so inherently fragile as to catch any passing infection.

There is already a long list of health anxieties to cater for, but Dengue seems to be uppermost on the list. I do not have to go far; the demonic energy and malevolence with which my daughter goes after the lone, unfortunate, and vagrant mosquito or anything small and minuscule that takes to wings, is proof enough of what is on the mind of every doting mother. Whenever we go out along with my grandchildren, I also get my quota of protective armour of 'Odomos'. I suffer the elaborate ritual ceremony for warding off Dengue quite sportingly.

Even though Bharati Nagar, near the posh Lodhi Colony and home to senior civil servants, is one of the better off areas of Delhi, it has reported cases. Dengue and Chikungunya seem to have unmistakably a Marxist lineage; they attack the privileged. People who live in cleaner surroundings are their inevitable target . As further proof of their distinguished ancestry, these mosquitoes can live and breed only in enclaves of privilege - clean stagnant water in desert coolers, flower pots etc. Fetid drains, or polluted water bodies cannot sustain the Dengue population.

Even though hardly four or five, out of nearly 3500 strains of mosquitoes have any hostile design on us, mosquitoes have become the universal enemy of mankind – or that species of homo sapiens which inhabits our part of the earth. Wholesale extermination of the mosquitoes is high on human agenda because that is how the modern man likes to fight his enemies. The epic fight of man and mosquito goes on everyday, everywhere here in Delhi, in slums and areas cut off from municipal services as well as in the posh government colonies where fogging machines trail clouds of gas, potentially lethal for dengue infected mosquitoes. Luckily for the mosquitoes the humans are far too clumsy. They just cannot manage the en masse extinction!

With the onset of winter, we are beginning to put the fear of Dengue and Chikungunya behind us but the resurgent malaria is an ever present threat and cannot be written off. But then what are we to do about the mischievous, shape-shifting virus that is the cause of so much misery by way of giving us flu? They are hugely inventive and slip through the safety net of anti flu vaccine in a different disguise. And they have no fear of antibiotics. We have for so long distrusted our own antibodies that we repose absolute faith in the antibiotics; there is one for every occasion. They are our savior and if they let us down, then God help us.

In the meanwhile, people who could have made a difference to our prospects in our fight against pollution and the minuscule enemies, Mr. Kejriwal and the Mr. Najeeb Jung, the CM and the LG, are making it worse. Locked in a do or die battle, they contribute acrimonious decibels and fire and brimstone to an already vexed situation. Mr. Kejriwal declared sometime back that there was a high level threat to his life. He, however, did not elaborate whether it would be delivered via an infected mosquito or through other traditional means. In their inactive they spur the courts to hyperactivity - higher courts are busy sorting out the issues that the combatants raise against each other. Of course all at the taxpayers’ expense and time!


India Today magazine once referred to Manoje Nath, a 1973-batch IPS officer, as being fiercely independent, honest, and upright. Besides his numerous official reports on various issues exposing corruption in the bureaucracy in Bihar, Nath is also a writer extraordinaire expressing his thoughts on subjects ranging from science fiction to the effects of globalization. His sense of humor was evident through his extremely popular series named "Gulliver in Patiliputra" and "Modest Proposals" that were published in the local newspapers.

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