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There is a Malayalam saying pukachu purathu chadikkuka. It means smoke someone out (from hiding). I am not hiding, and yet the feeling I have is that my neighbors are trying their best to smoke me out (of my home) by burning stuff and sending smoke my way.

Burning is alright, if burning is what you do. But when you set fire to green leaves and weeds, plastic stuff plus household waste, and walk away without tending to the fire, all you are doing is making a LOT of smoke. The smoke doesn’t bother them. Not that they are smoke-proof or anything, it is just that the wind blows from the north which means the billowing smoke promptly makes for MY home. It fills the rooms and hangs around for long, refusing to leave like an unwelcome guest. The haziness it creates makes the rooms look like scenes from old faded photographs.

The smoke tickles my nose, burns the throat and enters my lungs. Before long I am sneezing (nineteen to the dozen!) and there settles a heaviness in my chest. Breathing is no longer easy. (This is where I put a disclaimer saying I am NOT looking for advice or suggestions on how to cope with my problems. So refrain from giving me advice about yoga and breathing exercises. If one more person tells me about pranayama, I may do them grievous injury!)

One day I smelled something horrible. It made me feel terribly nauseous. So I walked out to the balcony to see what was happening. Black smoke was rising from one corner of the backyard of the neighbor who stayed uphill from me. What are you burning, I asked out loud. If it is plastic, today I am going for an all-out fight, this I said to myself. Oh nothing, she replied, just some old clothes. Clothes! I had seen in a recent show that almost ALL kinds of clothes have polyester (and who knows what else?) content in them. No wonder it smelled so funny. The stench (I can only call it that) was so terrible that I started retching and had to run and hide behind closed doors of the only room on the ground floor where the smoke wouldn’t enter because of the way it was positioned.

Allergies are no fun. My kind sort of drains me of energy preventing me from working at full capacity either physically or mentally. The lost hours and days makes me sad and mad. This is not something those who breath freely understand. They are dismissive of your difficulties and some even think you are lazy. Let that sink in. They think you are LAZY because you cannot do the same amount of work in the same amount of time with the same speed and efficiency as them.

Since requests, polite and stern, have not yielded results, what I need is a simulator which gives the whole difficulty-of-breathing experience to others, so they can get an inkling of just how difficult it really is. The first ones I’d try it on are the two neighbors of mine who right now are my nemesis (followed by some others). One spoils my mornings, the other prevents my evening strolls on the terrace. Of course, I will also need to give my neighbors a few lessons on How To Burn Stuff The Right Way.

© Shail Mohan 2020