Choked

By Sunil Kumar

This week’s book review. Finished reading “Choked” by Pallavi Aiyar. Relatively quickly; within a day.

The book is an instructive insight into pollution; and like for most women; the author’s interest was piqued after the birth of her son; which made her realize the hell-hole of pollution she was living in then; China’s capital, Beijing.

To be fair to her Indian roots; she’s managed to rightly critique the Indian state for its lackadaisical attitude; and the city she grew up in; the capital, Delhi.

As I’ve been under the weather for the past month(cold and fever); probably due to the cold and pollution endemic in every city including Mumbai; Aiyar’s book struck a chord. She explains the distinction between PM2.5, 10, Sulphurous oxide and Nitric oxide and the major contributory factors in each case.

Delhi occupies too much mindspace in this book like China; but a woman’s gotta speak about where she lives; which in her case includes the developed and the developing world(Brussels, Jakarta etc).

Useful tips from her individually included pollution being highest in the mornings and late at night; doing most jobs between noon and 5; and keeping doors and windows locked in case of severe pollution, better breathing stale air than “fresh” in her opinion.

China’s Olympian efforts(literally) of controlling nature; the North-South divide there; ignoring basic norms earlier(blue-sky days and the PM2.5 CLARITY later); and now a national-level program to confront this menace are some of the highlights as she mentions another one of the dragon’s fire-breathing efforts.

Aiyar was informative; and she correctly mentions lack of civil consensus; India’s fractious politics and public apathy towards environmental problems as a matter of major concern for future generations. The kind of damage billions of people are doing to the planet with its hackneyed leaders is too massive for a single individual to contain(unless you believe in fictional superheroes).

Appreciate the environmental detail and explanations here; but felt that she could have given more perspective and depth on India; instead of rehashing expat opinions. Twitter is an example of the despicable depths of ego lashings playing out on a daily basis; but Aiyar’s overall message is positive and it would bode well if environmental authorities and citizens as a whole took this whole issue seriously.

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