Off The Chart in India

LocationNowCast AQIPM2.5(ug/m3)Date
US Embassy New Delhi

502

502.7

2016-01-26 12:00:00 IST
US Consulate Hyderabad

157

66.2

2016-01-26 12:00:00 IST
US Consulate Chennai

105

37.0

2016-01-26 12:00:00 IST
US Consulate Kolkata

198

146.7

2016-01-26 12:00:00 IST
US Consulate Mumbai

170

91.8

2016-01-26 12:00:00 IST

Anyone who knows about the Air Quality Index knows that the numbers in Delhi are hazardous. But this today is ridiculous. Just sharing. That’s my report today from India.

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10 thoughts on “Off The Chart in India”

  1. Please be safe Ben. Try and stay indoors.
    I heard on NPR there is a company that bottles fresh air in the mountains and sends it (for profit) to places like India where the air quality is horrendous.

  2. Thanks for saying that Sabrina. I will make it. India is deep into bribery. They bribed their way to this situation. And also since there are 56 million people in the greater Delhi area (22 million in the actual town) and getting affluent fast like China, they have, for a year now, been selling 5000 cars per day. The air quality has deteriorated exponentially for two years now. We are losing 60% of our faculty this year. I never leave my apartment; only to walk five minutes to my classroom with a mask on. I have good air filters, the best, for my classroom and my apartment. Everyone coughs all the time. Linda seems to be all right so far. The worst is the winter and spring here is just a few weeks away. Landen and I will make it. But it’s unbelievable, like a movie set or something. The sun appears as a dull orange orb, not the yellow rays you see elsewhere.

  3. Ben, have you heard of the Counsel to Secure Justice? A friend of mine heads it up. He used to work for International Justice Mission in Mumbai but has now founded his own organization in New Delhi. Here’s a link to his website:
    http://www.csjindia.org/

    Praying for you and the important work you are doing – and not just in the area of language acquisition.

  4. Next time you see a corn field, Jim, or a lovely Iowa sunrise in winter, say a prayer of thanks that the air there is clean and fresh and invigorating. I literally can’t go outside. It’s odd to see an entire population of a city accept it. They have come to see it as normal. That is so weird. They’re being poisoned. But they can’t just move out of town, I guess. Strange times.

  5. Thank you Robert. I don’t know what else besides prayer can help us now so thank you – my heart thanks you. As usual, the children and elderly suffer the most. Lung related illnesses in those populations really is epidemic here. I just visited with a friend, the tailor in the local “town” (10,000 people living in an area that before the arrival of the American and British schools years ago to their “corner” of Delhi, housed 300) and this guy was coughing up crap the entire visit. He comes over and we read the Huffington Post India and talk about what is going on – he pretends to be able to read it. Then, this was just hours ago – I tell the Bulgarian guards to let him in – he tells me he has a constant sharp pain and points to his left ribcage. Well, he lives in poverty. He can’t afford much in the way of medical services. (This is another thing that we have in the U.S. that not everyone has.) There is a doctor who gives him “medicine” but he needs a full chest exam with x-rays and such. That isn’t going to happen. I look at him, and he has such tender and kind eyes and a sweet smile – Indian people are so kind; their eyes are so kind – and then he goes back to his little area. I should take a picture of it and post it here. Their “village” is so small and the smells of it are so bad! It’s not even a village but a squalid campground really, that’s what it is. When I go in there the women all immediately see me and cover their faces. The men all say to me, “Good morning, Sir” and kind of lower their heads when I go through security to get into and out of the fortress we work in. I want to grab them and tell them to not “sir” me, and I have mentioned it to some of them, but they can’t stop. It is a vestige of British India. We work so close to the American and Chinese embassies (and Swiss and Palestine and Bulgarian – I live next to where Ravi Shankar lived, like across the street). And everywhere there are these snipers carrying rifles. Like every 500 yards. They are all Indians but who have Chinese features and are a branch of the Indian Army that apparently make the best snipers. So odd because their Chinese features make it look like Chinese soldiers are protecting us. They never smile. Many of the men from the colony work in the American and British schools (next to each other in the diplomatic area of Delhi). The British are building a huge building right now and these guys from the village, so many men from the village, are building it. The other day I saw a group of them trying to move a big cement mixer. They were so small and the machine was so big. There were at least 20 of them. With dogs and children playing nearby. They break on a daily basis every code ever written in the U.S. construction industry. They have these little yellow plastic hard hats, like they would even do something when needed. These guys do the work of machines in the U.S. And they tie scarves over their hard hats to keep them on. And many of them wear sandals to the work site. And they are cold right now because Delhi is so far north. And I have my fluffy Golden State Warriors jacket to wear for the five minute walk to work and they are freezing. And they walk arm in arm and laugh and tell jokes and look so happy because they have jobs that earn them in one day what I make in ten minutes or less – no exaggeration – across the street hanging out with my students in French. Being here is different than reading about India. But when you see it, it changes how you think of the role of government in people’s lives. Like, they need toilets in their colony and can’t buy them because they have no jobs and because there is no plumbing to hook up to. Such a simple thing as a crapper. But the government can’t get that together and the entire country is a shit show. Those who complain in the U.S. about big government need to come over here and have a look around. But the Indian government has to focus on Pakistan and China. And across the street and around the corner from the colony, serving the diplomats, are restaurants that, if these men ate in them, would cost them a few months salary – the ones who have jobs, anyway. I do believe that what we go through in crowded high schools in America is very tough, can be horrible, is horrible on some days. But what I am seeing up close and personal here is beyond the pale.

  6. We live such sheltered lives here. It is unfathomable, and so unfair, that so many people are subjected to such horrifying living conditions. I really, really, really do appreciate it so much every time I have the opportunity to go up the mountain in my village in Austria and look over the snow-covered peaks and breathe in this pristine air (although it is probably polluted, too, we just can’t see it).
    The feeling of helplessness must be overwhelming, at the same time, knowing that you could probably leave any minute if you wanted to. An option that 10 million others in this city don’t have. What a crazy world we live in.
    I am praying for you and your family that you will not get sick or damage your lungs irreparably. The same, of course, for everyone else having to live like that.

  7. When things get really out of hand like they are here, I see the power and grace of the human spirit to adapt. The Indian people are no less happy from what I can see. They openly express love for each other and laugh at simple things. Here I see it everywhere all the time, the heart quality, and it has probably been going on for thousands of years. When I do get out into Delhi, I see the most amazing Mughal, etc. history everywhere. Such a deep and ancient place. I don’t get into Delhi very often because my goal is to get out of here every chance I can since this is the hell spot of India even Mumbai doesn’t come close in air quality danger. Not to worry about me. Thank you, Brigitte. I’ll be back on my road bike in four months. Heading up into the mountains. But this time it will be with a different pair of lenses on.

    1. I experienced similar feelings living in Paraguay. It is amazing to consider the millions of people that go on tirades on their facebook profiles if there was a latte with missing whipped cream while millions of real people can’t find a way to support their families. It is amazing to see how prosperity places wedges between people and poverty seems to refine the heart and bring out an unconditional decency in many people.

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