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A Breath Of Fresh Air

Because India is commonly known for its incomparable beauty, most fail to realize that along with the beauty of the land comes many downfalls.


When you step outside onto the crowded streets of New Delhi, there’s a disappointingly large amount of disturbing sights. Stray cows and rabid dogs roam around randomly on highways and busy jammed roads, with no owners. Homeless beggars line up along the street to knock on car windows for even just a couple of rupees (equivalent to less than half a U.S. dollar).


Despite all this, the most disturbing part to a foreigner would most likely be the amount of people walking around with white masks covering the bottom half of their faces. There’s a lot of social issues that people like to tackle after they come back from India, but surprisingly, very few talk about the overarching issue, the pollution. Everyone seems to acknowledge that it’s a problem, but very few solutions are offered. 


As of November 2nd, 2019, Indian officials declared a public health emergency in New Delhi as well as in its bordering cities. An article published on CNN states, “On Monday, the AQI level remained above 800 in certain parts of the city, the worst levels seen in more than three years.”

I happened to be in India on precisely November 2nd and my personal experience seemed to be considerably worse than what I see people saying online. When I walked out of the airport in Delhi, I wasn’t able to breathe whatsoever. Airport officials were distributing breathing masks, which still did very little to help the situation. Even my own parents, who grew up in India, seemed disturbed by how devastatingly substandard living conditions had become since we last visited two years before.


My family stayed indoors almost the whole trip. Going outside meant either uncomfortable breathing masks or severe coughing. The houses were all either stuffy and closed shut or smelled of intoxicating smoke.


So what is India doing to help the ever growing situation? They’re trying to stop the levels from going any higher while they still can. An article on NPR breaks down the actions the government has taken to date. “Construction activities that could add to the dust in the air were halted temporarily. Schools were shut and government advisories were issued, asking people to stay indoors. Firecrackers have been banned for the remainder of the winter season and factories that hadn’t shifted to piped natural gas were temporarily shut down. The Delhi government also reinstated a rule, first tried during another pollution spike in 2016, that cars with even and odd license plates were allowed on Delhi’s roads only on alternate days..”


There are nearly 19 million people in Delhi itself. 19 million people are exposed to these poor breathing conditions every single day. 


And, I probably wouldn’t care about this issue had my parents not taken me there to experience it. It showed me that, if anything, it’s incredibly important to interact with new people and places. It’s crucial for everyone to finally step out of their ‘comfort zone’, whether it’s their hometown or friend group. See new places, meet new people, and learn new things.


~ Khushi Pasrija

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