Sitting at my desk, finding it hard to breathe and my head pounding, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I felt even worse than I did the day before. I really couldn’t afford another sick day, but I called my driver anyway and headed home for the day, even though it was only 3:00. I felt like I had a bad chest cold, but without the fever. This is how bad pollution days in the Delhi area make me feel. They don’t only affect me physically, but emotionally as well. I find myself feeling homesick for blue sky and fresh air. Fortunately, after ten months here, I have found 5 helpful ways to deal with the poor air quality in Delhi.
1) Air Filters: I have one at home, and one in the office. I even put one in our client’s conference room because we spend a lot of time there. They looked at me a little funny, but I just shrugged it off as an American thing. Air filters were one of my first on-line purchases in India and I run them 24/7. They were expensive, but worth every penny if they help me, and primarily my American team members, breathe easier. The pollution doesn’t seem to affect my Indian colleagues as much. Perhaps their bodies have just grown accustomed to the poor air quality.
2) Antioxidants & Immunity Boosters: I take everything from Airborne to Protandim, and blueberries to red wine (that is my favorite antioxidant!) If I can get my dirty hands on it, and it helps rid your body of pollutants, I’m buying it, drinking, eating it or using it.
3) Stay Inside: I hate staying indoors. Frankly it pisses me off, but it’s better than being outside and feeling sick. At times the pollution is so bad in India that I can taste it in my mouth and feel it on my skin. India will have to do something more drastic about their pollution soon or expats like me are going to refuse to work here and tourism and industry will suffer.
4) Head scarves: In India they are called a shemagh. I’m not a fan of the medical masks, the ones that make you look like a surgeon. They feel too confining, and make me stand out even more as a tourist. You never see the locals wearing them, so I might as well just wear a big sign attracting pick-pockets and who knows what else. But Indians, especially the women, wrap the shemagh around their head to keep dust out of their hair and lungs. At first I assumed it was a religious thing, but 10 months later I get it, have been here and done that!
5) Positive Thinking: It may sound simple, but attitude is everything. On days when the air pollution is getting to me, I try to focus on the things I like about India, such as the strange things I see every day on the roads, my sweet Indian boyfriend, the children’s smiles, and the beautiful Himalaya Mountains, (that typically are surrounded with blue sky). The only good thing about the pollution is that it often creates a beautiful sunset or sunrise because the sun is filtered through the smog and glows bright pink or orange. These things remind me that I have to accept what I can’t change, but I can certainly hope for a greener, cleaner India…..someday.