When I try to breathe



Aditya Kaushik, father of Varun:

My son has asthma so visits to the doctor are occurring, cough is there…. My wife and I are worried but many of the other children here are also having difficulties in breathing…I’m worried about them, but let’s see. I’m planning to move out from Delhi to some open space. Let’s see when it will really happen. In some green area. Doctor is telling that this is better for children. My daughter is small and is coughing (too) sometimes.”


There is a lot of smoke here and dust. When my father comes into the house from work I can feel how much dirt there is on his clothes, it is the same when a car drives past me… The roads are very narrow and dusty. I remember, before the monsoon, every time a car drove down the street the air became very dusty and hard to breathe. I always cover my mouth with my hand. You could also see and smell the exhaust fumes. In the winter when the sky is very dark and pollution is high I get very tired and sick… Sometimes I have headaches and my chest can feel squashed. In the night it is bad too, I cough every night.

Varun Kaushik is seven and has suffered from asthma as long as he can remember. He missed school because “my body hurt a lot”. He doesn’t just blame the traffic, but also the burning of rubbish and the firecrackers.



In the hot weather, I just struggle to breathe. Not so much in the house because I put a fan on and stuff. But yeah, I’ve had it where I’ve walked out the front door and immediately I’m breathless… We placed ten of these little vials along the A12 from Belfont Tower to Bow roundabout, and the readings on that corner were horrendous. We didn’t have any readings at all under the acceptable level – they were all above. acceptable levels. That was concentrating on the exhaust fumes, but … especially on a dry hot day as a lorry drives down, you can see the cloud of cement dust.

Fran Jefcoate lives in one of the most polluted spots in London, in a housing estate on the northern approach to the Blackwall tunnel. She is involved with her local community but was recently diagnosed with asthma – and it is getting worse.



In the future, we will have a new city, that is very clean and very smooth. There will be some spaceships landing here in Delhi and flying to the moon… The vehicles will be electric so they are not creating any smoke. So we will live inside and travel through special pipes so the air will be clean. The air conditioned air is easy to breathe so there will be no problems. I think it will be fun.


Unless you’ve got a lung condition which makes you aware of it, of course you just go about your daily life and don’t give it a second thought. It’s only when it affects you that you start thinking: oh, we really need to do something about this. It’s all very selfish. Because otherwise you wouldn’t think about it. It’s like an invisible illness: [just] because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.



They had introduced something called odd-even in Delhi. It’s where … cars with odd numbers were allowed to run on so and so days and cars with even numbers were allowed to drive on the other days. It helped reduce air pollution drastically… I’m sad that it’s not done the rounds again, in fact I feel it should just be a norm in Delhi now but it isn’t.

Bhavana Malhotra is a working woman in Delhi with asthma. She would love to cycle to work, but she can’t.


I’ve never flown in a plane, I’ve never driven in a car, I recycle as much as a possibly can, and it’s only a little bit – but, if we all did it, then the world would be a much better place.



The smell from the drains comes directly into our house. It comes from a drain that passes right through the camp. The smell is so bad in summer. That is why the mosquito spray men come sometimes. The flies and mosquitoes can live in the drains… There is one big road in front of the market. It takes us more than five minutes to cross when the cars are moving fast. In the morning it is better, because the traffic makes the cars very slow. My mother is nervous to cross the road; a friend was killed crossing it one day.


I think it should be equal. There should be equal space for people walking and driving. They should make more bridges for people to cross the road. Although there are some bridges, we don’t use them as it is too far. CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) does not cause pollution, so that is a very good solution. The buses in Delhi are CNG so this is very good. Electric cars don’t have any smoke from them too. I saw one two days ago.

Nilesh Vohra is thirteen years old and has had breathing problems since he was a child. His doctor says he has a dust allergy. Many of his friends suffer from the same problems. His school trip involves a ten-minute walk along busy roads. His mother is now in hospital with lung cancer.


I’m just a realist. I always have been. I’ve got some airy-fairy ideas in my little ideal world but its reality isn’t it? In my ideal world, no-one would drive cars… We’d have a really good electric or solar or something network of public transport that was cheap, and made it possible for people to travel. We’d love our areas more, we’d pick up our rubbish, we’d dispose of our rubbish properly. Then we could start complaining about gulls and foxes, because … the only reason we’ve got so many is because of the way we get rid of our rubbish.