Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Delhi was smoggy" is a dog-bites-man story

In preparing for the trip to India, I had packed a couple of long-sleeve t-shirts, two sweaters, and even a beanie, because I knew I would be traveling to places in India that would be a lot cooler than Chennai.

Perhaps even to the Himalayan foothills. Or to the hilly northeast.

I didn't go anywhere near the northeast, and not quite near the Himalayas either.  But, I did end up at places where the overnight low was nine celsius, one of the nights I was in Delhi.  A few days before I was there, and later too, the lows dipped all the way down to 5C (about 40F.)

Those of us who can afford to, well, we wear warm clothes and stay in heated rooms.  But, others who cannot?  Especially the ones who live in slums or out on the streets?

I would imagine that the guy sitting by a smoky fire to warm himself up was not an unusual sight at all.  I saw him at about five in the evening.  Thanks to living in Oregon, I have become so much used to cooler temperatures that I was walking around with a pair of jeans and a short-sleeve t-shirt on, which invited a lot of strange looks.

But, at five in the evening, it felt like the temperature was perhaps about 60F (15C) and this was quite comfy to walk around. By nine, when I stepped out, I had a second layer of a longer-sleeve t-shirt also on.

I can imagine life to be tough for those on the streets as it cools down.  Which is why this older man was sitting by a fire at five in the evening.  The morning earlier, at about eight, as I was walking through the narrow streets towards the Jama Masjid I saw many numbers of men--yes, only men--sitting in groups around fires right by the roadside, holding their palms over the flames.

Everyday life is tough when poor.

With such fires, all the auto exhaust, industrial pollution, ... should we be surprised then the Delhi sky was so smoggy that my throat was always itchy and I had to take anti-histamines?

I was reminded of the inverted "U" curve: the environmental quality seems to deteriorate as a country's economic growth and development takes off, and then begins to improve at a later stage.

So, we can only hope that India, and the poor Indians in particular, will get rich soon.

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