The smog in Delhi has been in the news lately and has even gained a whole new identity of its own. Like the lead character of a rather gory movie, its PM2.5 status has been bandied about while news item after news item has dwelled on the sheer audacity of this smog to rise beyond the permissible limits to a place where it has enveloped the city in a seemingly evil layer. No, let me correct myself – in a definitely evil layer.
With the word Delhi, my mind instantly throws a number of words and conjures up a number of images. Some good, some not so good and some downright ugly. While I have enjoyed walking down the lanes and streets of the posh Lutyen’s Delhi, reached Janpath to haggle for overpriced goods, taken a ride to Dilli Haat to bargain and bring home even more overpriced goods, and even taken in my fair share of Chandini Chowk and what lies between there and New Delhi, I have to admit that I have never felt completely at ease in this capital of ours. I even turned towards Janakpuri and the newly evolved flashtown called Punjabi Bagh, only to get disappointed even more. I went to Hauz Khas looking for some free spirited fun and what I found was a pretentious mob of art galleries extending towards the deep pockets of Mehrauli – a slightly more street style version of Khan Market. Where is Delhi’s heart? Lost in the smog maybe?
Last year, a day after Diwali, I made the mistake of landing in Delhi and there it was – in all its gory glory – the dreaded smog that hung over us in a brown haze, blurring our vision and making us cough, sneeze and sputter as we tried to breathe. I was appalled. Delhi, what are you up to? As if your streets were not bad enough, now even the air we breathe is unsafe for us? I tied a hanky around my mouth and took a few gulps of “filtered air.”
What is the cure for Delhi? What is the cure for its rapists who have left animals from the darkest fictional tomes far behind? What is the cure for the large home owners who must show their status with an even larger display of fireworks that leaves an entire city gasping for air? What is the cure for not being able to travel in a bus or an auto peacefully, and not at all after dusk? What is the cure for a Chief Minister who insists on playing the blame game when it comes to his policies and his failed programs? What is cure for its Yamuna river bleeding with dirt and waste?
Conscience. The word is conscience. Delhi needs a solid dose of conscience. Otherwise, the odd even program and water spraying on the streets will fall flat on a bed of illusions, just as Delhi has fallen from grace. It is time to regulate how people think, behave and function – and more than that, it is time for self regulation. It is time to soften the edges that have made Delhi’s heart a bitter place and its people even more bitter. Any takers?