Fresh air farce

While in Paris, recently, people I know reeled off a couple of questions, understandably.

Do you feel any air pollution in Paris? No!

Do you find Paris noisy? No!

Do you find Paris dirty? No!

I knew I was being made a guinea-pig: does anyone from Kathmandu — one of the most polluted capitals in the world — feel any pollution, noise or dirt in one of the cleanest cities in the world? Their inference, I surmise, is: No, he doesn’t!

My impressions were honest and aboveboard. It’s a sad yet simple fact: bluntly put, Kathmandu, our beloved capital city, is hell. And I was supposed to opine on Parisian environment with reference to Kathmandu. On the face of it, my monosyllabic answers could have hardly been in the affirmative (obviously, the inquirers would have been in the affirmative!).

But that’s not what irked me

most. The conclusion of a French/Italian team — at 5,000m in the Himalayas — that the “air pollution in the Himalayas matches that of European cities” did a great deal of pain as it should do to any Nepali living in any part of the world.

That Kathmandu is polluted is

understandable: our capital suffers from a unique ‘nobody-cleans-everybody-litters’ epidemic. But the

café owner at 5,416m at Thorung Pass, for instance, inhales pollution is

anything but intelligible and is

simply beyond the pale.

The moment they get out of the Kathmandu valley, Kathmanduites tend to feel a respite vis-à-vis ‘breathing’. They are often overheard saying, “Wow! We breathe fresh air here!” Good grief! The respite is blatantly bogus. ‘Fresh air’ around Kathmandu is merely a misnomer.

If the air at 5,000m in the Himalayas is polluted, how could it remain

clean at Nagarkot or Kakani:

surrounded as they are by decades-old vehicles and brick factories among other nuisances?

The sudden surge of masked people in Kathmandu hardly comes as a surprise. It’s not irrational, I bet, to imagine a similar ‘surge’ at Manang, Humla or Tehrathum in the years to come. Most certainly, the only ‘unmasked’ people in the Nepalese countryside will be the Kathmanduites: as the dwellers of Kathmandu, they may not feel any pollution, like in Paris.