Fresh Air

#Toxic Air IX – ‘Fresh Air Is Luxury For Me’

It is not possible in big cities, where the vehicles never stop running, where the air is laden with dust and pollutants. But the life and the air of big cities has now seeped into small-town India. Since I have grown up in a village, breathing fresh air, I can feel the difference in the air more acutely, more pronouncedly, unlike big city people. Air pollution has started scarring everyone’s lives.

A craftsman like me, who has to work extensively with wood is probably impacted more. I work at a furniture shop as a carpenter and have been in this profession for nearly two decades now. Twenty years ago, I did not pay much attention to my health — there was not much to worry about except the large amount of sawdust that went into my system.

Every day I single-handedly cut several pieces of wood –from small furniture to big wooden doors. Besides dealing with the sawdust, I have to put up with the nauseating smell of chemicals; and the ear-splitting sounds of machines. Now, apart from these work hazards, I have to worry about the growing levels of pollutants in the air.

There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. After these stressful work hours, I want to breathe clean, fresh air –but that has become a distant dream. Pollution from growing number of vehicles, toxic fumes from garbage dumps and the hazards at work, have probably shortened my life. My colleagues and I suffer from burning eyes, sensitive skin, and increased sensitivity to sound and smell after work-hours. Cough is also a constant companion, especially during the winters.

Since I work with wood, I understand how precious our trees are. I also take care to dispose off the sawdust and other waste from our shop properly. I try to make sure that I put every piece of wood to good use, so that nothing goes waste. I try and initiate conversations around green living if I see a sensitive customer.

And I try to keep it short, succinct and light. For every tree that is cut, a tree should be planted.  I have to earn a living, but that doesn’t mean I can’t care about the environment in my own little way. The need of the hour is to live in harmony with nature — and I know for sure that we are running out of time.

Green Shoots II

Green Shoots II – Reformed By The Rod

I am a carpenter. Lack of work opportunities in my village has forced me to take up jobs outside the village. Up till a few months ago, my daily routine was to join my friends on the outskirts of our village, Ramasipur, to play cards in the evening after a hard day’s work in the city.

It all looked good initially. On some days, I would return home with a ‘good win’. But gradually, things started deteriorating. I wasn’t lucky every day. I started losing and to cope with the losses, I found refuge in cheap country liquor.

My debts (in the game) started increasing and I started to lose most of my earnings to gambling and alcohol. Family quarrels became a norm. On several occasions, my wife went to her parental home along with the children. I brought her back every time with promises which I knew I would not be able to keep.
One evening, when we were busy gambling and enjoying alcohol, my wife, along with the Green Gang attacked us with wooden staffs.

It was a bolt from the blue and we had no choice but to run for our lives. These attacks became more frequent in the days that followed. We changed our location every time, but my wife had deputed one of my sons to spy on me and inform her about our whereabouts.

More and more wives joined the gang, leaving us exhausted and clueless. We tried different locations in the neighbouring villages but to no avail. The Green Gang had managed to mobilise women from the neighbouring villages as well.

Finally, about three-four months ago, I decided to quit gambling and alcohol. I was fed up of this cat and mouse chase. Some of my friends like Ramji and Girdhar also joined me. We collectively pledged in front of the gang and our family members that we will not dabble in gabling or alcohol ever again. Initially, it was difficult.

I used to be irritable, wasn’t able to sleep well, and had lost interest in work. But gradually I came to terms with my new life. Now, I am completely cured – a new man altogether.
Now, all of us collectively go to the city for work and come back home on time. Things at home have also improved.

I am able to spend quality time with my wife and children. We (the rehabilitated men) now, help the Green Gang in its cause. We gather at the local tea shop and try to convince others to shun the addiction of gambling and alcohol.