Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Egg Delivery at Delhi Airport: Don't Breathe

When you are planning to visit India for the first time, everything you read says, "Oh my gosh you will be in such a state of shock your first day or two! The poverty, the crowds of people, the foreignness....etc."

Perhaps suprisingly, none of that actually turned out to be shocking in the least to me. My Serbian husband was startled by homeless people sleeping in the streets - he's never really seen that before whereas it was a normal part of life for nearly 20 years for me when I lived in downtown Washington DC.

The shocking thing for me was the smell of the air - no it's not laden with rare spices of the Orient. It's laden with dust and diesel fumes. So much diesel in fact that I could barely breathe. The stink comes into the airplane air just after you land.... a thin nasty smell.

Then when you walk off the ramp into the airport, the smell thickens and your eyes start blinking and itching. The air inside the baggage claim area was filled with a haze that reminded me a lot of Los Angeles on bad air days circia 1980. And here in this photo of a guy delivering eggs, taken from my open taxi window is the typical smoggy air outside. That's as clear as it got for two days.

I had planned to go for long walks the two days we were in Delhi, resting before heading off to Nepal. I wanted to see everything I could possibly see - gardens, buildings, people. But, although I made a valiant effort, the smell and the way my lungs hurt made me beat a hasty retreat to our hotel room after a couple of hours. I'm sure with time I could adjust, and I'm sure it's not quite so bad all year round... but honestly, it was bad enough.

I stuck all the clothing we wore into a plastic bag in our luggage - isolating it - and washed the stench off as soon as we got to Nepal. Pollution is also pretty bad in Kathmandu and Pokhara business district (away from Lakeside), not not anything like Delhi.

Whichever company can make cheap engines (trucks, motorcycles, household generators) for the second and third world that don't emit fumes will profoundly change life for the better for hundreds of millions of people. There is no safe level for lead intake in the human body, especially for children. Not even one speck is safe, let alone this murky soup.

Oh yeah, and it will help global warming too. So, if you know of a company to invest in, I will definitely buy some stock in support!

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