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Gurugram’s pollution, high AQI force Diwali-loving expats to leave city

A large number of expats are choosing to not spend Diwali in Gurugram as pollution and high AQI have become synonymous with Diwali celebrations in the city.

gurgaon Updated: Nov 07, 2018 09:33 IST
Kankana Roy Jain
Kankana Roy Jain
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
Gurugram,Diwali,gurgaon air quality
As environmental conditions continue to deteriorate, expats are increasingly giving this quintessential Indian festival a miss in the city. (HT Photo)

Sumire Otaki, a Japanese woman living in DLF 5, loves celebrating Diwali and all the traditions and rituals that come with it. But this year, she has decided to spend the day in Dubai with her family. Just like Otaki, a large number of expats are choosing to not spend Diwali in Gurugram as pollution and high Air Quality Index (AQI) have become synonymous with Diwali celebrations in the city.

“The pollution in the city during and after Diwali is terrible. I have two kids and it becomes dangerous for the young ones to breathe this air. This is why we are going away for a few days,” Otaki said.

Though some international residents of the city have chosen to brave the poor air quality and consequent health hazards to celebrate the festival here, numerous others are choosing to go to places that have better air quality.

Reiko Hanawa, a Japanese resident who is travelling to Maldives during the Diwali break, said, “The air is so polluted at this time that we prefer to travel than stay in the city. Besides, this year a lot of my Indian friends are also going out of the country during Diwali, so there are no Diwali get-togethers or pujas to attend either.”

Many expats also feel that Diwali is a festival about family and friends and if you don’t have a lot of friends in the city, one can feel a sense of alienation and isolation during this time.

Isabeller Runner, a South African resident of the Golf Course area said, “I will be travelling to Dubai during Diwali. I don’t know a lot of people here and the pollution can get excessive and problematic.”

While some expats are travelling to foreign pastures, other are choosing to travel to greener areas within the country.

Mayumi Shinkai, a Japanese resident of the Golf Course Area said, “This year I will be spending Diwali in a yoga centre in Kerala. I think I will come back rejuvenated and energized.” Sung Mi, a Korean national, also said she will be trekking through Leh-Ladakh and will be enjoying the fresh mountain air.

While, a large section of expats leave the city for better air and serene surroundings during Diwali, the city also gets a few international travellers during this time.

Matthew Swadener, an English Literature teacher from the USA, came to the city three weeks ago to visit his French friend who heads a multinational company in Gurugram.

“Indian people are warm, but I think there needs to be a lot more that the country needs to do for its environment. My country has its problems too, but we are constantly recycling everything,” Swadener said. He went on to talk about the “beautiful homeware market in Sector 56” and how he saw vendors and their children breathe and live in dust. “I always wonder why can’t grass be planted there, it would be so much more environment friendly,” he said.

As environmental conditions continue to deteriorate and high level of air pollution looms large, expats are increasingly giving this quintessential Indian festival a miss in the city.

Environmentalist and art curator Gayatri Singh, who frequently interacts with Korean art enthusiasts, reminisced, “ Till a few years back, the Diwali parties we attended in Gurugram had a lot of Korean guests. They enjoyed the festivities and even Korean songs were played sometimes. This year, most of our Korean acquaintances have been missing from the Diwali parties.”

First Published: Nov 07, 2018 09:25 IST