It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And then, it was the smoggiest, haziest and most stifling of times.
The Delhi summer had just finished waging a brutal war of attrition upon us, with sweat running down our backs we warded off enthusiastic, diseased mosquitoes. Barely had the threat of dengue and chikungunya buzzed off, there billowed into town the blackest smoke. And it scared the hell out of me.
Our toddlers are wheezing, struggling for a full breath. Our eyes sting, our throats prickle, and our future here seems bleak.
We moved to Delhi a year ago, after spending the last 25 years in Washington, DC. My husband, Nitin, our two baby boys, and I had just begun to adjust to our new life in India, with a few hiccups here and there—until the smog crept up upon us and soon engulfed us entirely.
Nitin and I shifted to Delhi to launch our wedding portal startup, Happy Shappy. We made a sizable financial investment in India, and even more so, a major lifestyle one. We sold our home, our cars, the boys' beloved swing set and kissed our friends goodbye. DC had long been my home, my comfort—but in India, I envisioned adventure and growth.
We knew the risk we were taking was far off the beaten path, and it was a decision most naysayers regarded snidely. Still, Nitin and I were drawn to India for the optimistic growth rhetoric we believed in. Skill India, Digital India, Make in India. Our Happy Shappy checked all these boxes. The brain drain was past, now it was time to go down a path of brain re-gain, as India lured us with her burgeoning markets.
But over the past week, our home has been filled with smog. Our toddlers are wheezing, struggling for a full breath. Our eyes sting, our throats prickle, and our future here seems bleak. Despite all the wonders this city has to offer—the family and culture and food and love—the suffocating pollution is forcing us to reconsider raising a family here. I fear I've done a tremendous disservice to my children by settling them into a home that resembles a post-apocalyptic world. A sci-fi biosphere bathed in soot, where survival depends on face masks and elite cocoons stationed around air filtration systems. If protecting one's children from harm is the cornerstone of parenting, then surely I have failed as a mother. This realization has been nearly as suffocating as the Delhi air all around me.
If protecting one's children from harm is the cornerstone of parenting, then surely I have failed as a mother.
Washington DC had been my home for several years, but India has always been my roots, and in my blood. I just don't want so much of its noxious gases in our lungs, or in the nauseating sputum my baby boys cough up. I hope so badly that the air clears soon—that people stop the relentless abuse of our land and skies, that we stop demolishing the home we want to build for our children, and stop celebrating a future by obliterating a present.