Death in the air, but who cares?


Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai arrives for the screening of the film "Ma loute" in competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes Kings and badshahs of years long gone by killed humans at one go – swords and knives piercing through ribs and skulls amidst horrifying cries and that’s about it. Khatam! Khalaas! Done! Dead! Gone! None of the slow killing sessions as today’s political rulers are putting us through, day after day.

I’m just back from smog-ridden New Delhi — looking and feeling rotten. All didn’t seem well with the capital city. It reminded me of a hospital extension, with masks covering haggard faces and the unmasked going about with a nervous gait trying to escape to a nowhere of sorts, each one of them an undertrial let loose in an open jail with poisonous gases unleashed right from the top.

Compounding the mess, the general mahaul around curbs even the free flow of thoughts.

Wondering and wandering about here and there in the maze, I hopped into the Metro dragging along little relief as dust-laden dry coughs continued undoing not just the hapless lungs but also the levels of patience. More smog awaited in the dry and dusty Millennium City — Gurugram. Tried my level best to see right and left or focus just straight ahead but visibility blurred to such an extent that besides lofty concrete structures I could not spot any signs of the so-called development. Nah, none of the brooms swish-swashing dust from here to there. Filth spread out as never before even at the entrance of the malls somewhat over-stuffed with phoren maal but who cares?

Inhalers and masks are the urgent need of the day, as citizens go coughing amidst cries, trying to survive in this façade-ridden scenario where even encounters are turning out to be fake. Harnessing of that tiny little mosquito or any of the strays loitering around seemingly impossible by all possible might under the state machinery, so in utter frustration they hound and pound the two-legged human being, who is anyway dying a painfully slow death in these developed times.

NCR blues: Some joker has put out a picture saying that this top) is what you look like before heading out into the smog and this is how you look when you return home in the evening

And as I walked around, gasping amidst this haze, many more freshly constructed hospitals and clinics seemed to have come up at every turn of this Millennium City — several of them equipped with surgical dens. Nah, not to be confused with surgical strikes, though not too certain of the near killing sessions well inside the operation theatres. Outside the hospital wards and operation theatres, the dying and even the undying discuss death and offshoots. Overhearing them a developer has come up with ‘heavenly’ development projects for the last rites, what with the so many dying in this smog, getting upgraded by the hour. So now, no more dreamy homes but frilly cremation grounds and graveyards. Don’t know whether bookings are on, together with heady discounts and more than tempting offers, as a great majority amongst us can no longer take the strain of this third-class living in a farcical scenario.

Are these lifeless concrete structures signs of development? Or those poverty-stricken stretches of Gurugram’s Mewat belt where the basic means to earn a livelihood have been snatched away from hundreds of youth under the garb of beef scare? Or those big-bodied cars controlled by the mafia in its various hues and forms? Or the rain waters developing into flooded nallahs where the stinky-rich with filth–filled heads go boating, catching frogs and fish before making a broth of the two?

Deterioration as never before. Earlier one could step out without wondering whether it was summer or winter or spring or autumn. No more. The time, day and month of the year checked and re-checked. Why? Can’t commute during the peak hours of working days with commuters scurrying around in a maddening frenzy. Worsen those strains during the winter fog, autumn smog, summer’s sun-stroking heat and, of course, the monsoon floods where there erupts every chance of getting wrecked if not drowned.

Enough of the daily disasters to demolish any of the romantic notions of rains — drizzles and storms. Forget the couplets, verses, folk songs and Bollywood lyrics on baarish, paani, or thanda-garam mausam. Fast learn the contrived developmental graphs, the cooked up details to cooked meals and the other ready-made bandobast to settle all those pangs, right from hunger to thirst to much more.

Though this smouldering smog can be one of those levellers but even here money comes to the rescue of those well-equipped with sagging pockets. For them holds out an array of air-purifiers and conditioners and all those get-away destinations. How many amongst us can actually flee? It gets difficult if not near impossible to make ends meet with few bucks left to buy tickets for an escape. But where to go? Most of North India seems reeling under a smog-laden atmosphere, of course with varying degrees. If one were to travel towards Uttarakhand or Himachal, monkeys sit perched atop trees, ready to tear apart the fragile human being. Further up north, in the Kashmir Valley pellet guns are killing, rupturing and ruining lives.

Wondering who the hell will come visiting? Nah, don’t mean friends or relatives; they are busy fighting their own survival battles. Nobody is interested in mingling or intermingling unless a who’s who is tagged accompanied with your name or surname. But which business tycoon or tourist will even think in terms of landing here for investment or sightseeing? There’s not just a haze spread out on every front but unhealthy layers of gloom — doom spread out. Why should these investors or holiday makers sit or squat in this dust-ridden atmosphere, potent enough to choke or dent the lungs for times to come?

Wrapped in nostalgia, I sit all sad and sullen, wondering: weren’t we better off in the good old days when ‘developing’ or ‘under-developed’ we were with fewer wants? Just two square meals and that once-in-a-while dining out session seemed to take care of everyday wants. The skies up there looked blue. The flowers bloomed. The human face looked carefree and hassle free. The human form was still intact and those cravings for emotional anchorages were not to be confused with surcharged sexual releases. Those were the good old days when we actually lived and lived quite happily. Unlike today where even the basic traces of survival are turning out to be such a pain, an ongoing struggle for survival.

My dilemma: Can we call this living? Are we living in developed times? No way. At least in that bygone era there were no camouflages. Lesser and fewer facades and masks of all hues and colours and forms.

With today’s climate – political and otherwise — turning murky there’s that mess writ large on every single aspect. That basic day-to-day survival getting nothing short of hellish. Darker lie our lives as the camouflages more than choke.

[email protected]