As a gesture of lopsided snobbery, we Indians take pride in the fact that we can happily bear with levels of pollution and other ‘developing country’ hardships that can knock the breath out of a visiting foreigner. Thus, the gentle poke at the tourist experiencing ‘Delhi Belly’, or the polite snigger at the traveller covering her face Michael Jackson-style to put a barrier between desi germs and herself. The smile we let out on encountering foreigners clutching on to their mineral bottles comes from the same stable of emotions.
But for Delhiites, still quaking in their chappals after an early morning tremor on Monday, the message that the Kyoto Protocol is not a judo move and that greenhouse gas is not Al Gore-created flatulence was driven home on Sunday when an Indian victory against Pakistan at Feroze Shah Kotla was postponed by a day because of bad light. The culprit: the city’s notorious smog. This was not some Met Department phenomenon that they talk about on Nat Geo, but something visible and palpable enough to make Indians worry about the first match in the three Test series possibly ending in a draw. Even for those watching the proceedings from home, the cricket field on their TV sets resembled the hunting ground of the Hound of the Baskervilles.
Last week, smog forced the cancellation of an aerobatic display by the Red Arrows team of the Royal Air Force. It seems that in Delhi’s post-CNG era, reports of the smog’s death had been exaggerated. Delhi may now face the prospect of hosting unfinished, smog-disrupted cricket matches. Now that is a carbon footprint that even flat-footed, hot-aired Delhiites will not want to leave behind in their wake.