I came back to the big city after a week of breathing fresh air and looking at clear skies in my hometown. Naturally, I felt odd. However, something felt way different than the usual coming-back-from-the-hometown feeling.
Maybe it was how Google had started giving me an air quality alert as far back as Modinagar which is about 60 kilometres away from New Delhi.
I spent a couple of minutes in a metro that wasn’t overflowing with people. As surprising as that was, that moment of freedom was quickly replaced by yet another suffocation. A literal one. This was the feeling of coming from a place where the air was considerably cleaner than it was in Delhi.
The news wasn’t lying. While it wasn’t as noticeable as it was in the photos I had seen. I could hear coughs. Constant coughs from varying sources throughout my ride of fifteen or so stations.
I looked outside the coach, at the golden hour, and couldn’t see very far. Almost like the shader model on the graphics engine was outdated. Jargon aside, there wasn’t a lot of visibility and a constant grey filter encompassed everything that I could see which wasn’t a lot.
I remember reading about the London Smog back in high school. I used to wonder how that must’ve felt way back when that happened. This was the answer to my inquisition all those years ago.
Perhaps, I was conditioned by the news, mockery and headlines but I could feel it too. I spent an evening outside until I realised I’d be stuck in traffic anyway so I changed my plans a bit and decided to go home after dinner.
Present Moment And Touka Koukan
So, I sat in a café, waiting for a friend, I began typing this from the hub of the city. I couldn’t stop coughing. It’s not just me also, there is a presence of constant, repetitive coughing amidst the inaudible conversation, slurps of coffee and the tapping of my keys.
It is in moments like these when I realise how pointless our pursuits really are, how baseless the idea of big cities is and the sheer stupidity in leaving clean places in the name of experience and progress.
There’s a term in an anime called Fullmetal Alchemist. Touka Koukan. It means “equivalent exchange”. The series’ primary premise is touka koukan; to get something, you need to give something of equal value in return.
This is hardly an equivalent exchange. This is hardly touka koukan. Maybe it is about time some of us reevaluated our priorities and what we’re willing to exchange.