The yellow taxi was now standing at the Kestopur crossing. The time was a busy 9.30-ish morning. A desperate autorickshaw in the back was honking its horn in an unbroken rhythm and composing its own brand of cacophony. Vehicles of all sizes and number of wheels extensively dotted the roadmap. A gush of coal-black smoke poured in through the half-open window of the taxi and brought me back to reality.
Hello everyone, I am Arundhuti and today, I will share with you a slice of my story - a story centered on the fateful theme of Pollution, but in effect, it ties together strings of our collective despair and self-realisation.
“This is what it must feel like to look at a life-size postcard. This is beyond beautiful! This is like looking at the face of peace!” These are my words from a week back; I was vacationing in Thailand, and the heartwarming expanse of the Pattaya beach waved at me with open arms. The skyline was an electric blue, and a line of never-ending greenery along the roadside complemented the cool blue of the sea. My feelings of wonder and excitement multiplied as I let myself flow in the calm womb of nature. However not much time later, my euphoria met reality and its harsh tales as I checked into Bangkok. Contrary to its placid beach buddy, the Thai capital was flooded with a permanent plethora of pollutants. I could feel that the dying air was starting to feast on me as well. My eyes burned, and the weight of pollution made my breathing laboured.
Now, I was on my way home from the Thai trip. The Kolkata air was getting increasingly heavy, and a similar pungent smell started irritating my nostrils. As if on cue, I promptly put on the breathing mask bought from Bangkok. I felt suffocated inside the yellow taxi, the same way I felt while riding the signature Thai tuk-tuks. Warm, polluted air made of dirt forced their way into the taxi, untied and uninvited. I could feel the layers of grime depositing on my face, and the thought of possible skin infections made me cringe. Dissolving my thoughts in the murky air outside, the taxi sped across EM Bypass.
The murmur of chatting children halted my train of thoughts. My taxi was now crossing a traffic signal in Patuli. A group of street children was playing tic-tac-toe on the roadside. Speeding cars passed by while vomiting smoke upon the blissfully oblivious children; the fact that I was sitting in one such car, made me feel even more terrible! Pollution can seriously hamper the growth and intelligence of children, and the unsuspecting poverty-stricken and middle-class people are its primary prey.
I longed to breathe the fresh sea air. I wish I was still in Pattaya. My taxi driver was also possibly as disappointed as me; he suddenly started honking the horn full-volume to steer clear of the traffic. To me, the noise rang like it was coming from the sinister belly of hell; it shooed some crows swinging on nearby electric wires away. Briefly, I felt if only I was as carefree as the crows - cawing mindlessly and free to escape to anywhere they felt like. I dived into the sea of my own reflections, again! And so by the time, the taxi screeched to a halt near my South Kolkata home, my tickets to Digha were already booked and the date with a clear blue sky next month was already underway.
So, this is the story I wanted to share with you. I know it’s a bit unhappy but so is our Mother Nature, today. However, don’t worry – we can seek our way out of this! To further the cause, next week, let’s see a popular city pediatrician’s take on pollution and his words of caution to safeguard the flag bearers of the future - our children.
Stay tuned for more!