KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We arrived in Delhi after the overnight flight from Zagreb through Dubai, only to land in the most polluted city in the world. The pollution is always bad during the winter months because the farmers in the Punjab region continue to burn the stubble off their fields in order to prepare the soil for the coming planting season. The government has banned the burning in an attempt to reduce the smoke in the air, and the fines are steep. However, the farmers say it is cheaper to pay the fine than to absorb the cost of the fuel required to till the soil with a tractor.
In addition to the smoke from the Punjab, Delhi is surrounded by factories that emit tons of toxic emissions and then Diwali happens in late October or early November each year and revelers light hundreds of thousands of firecrackers to celebrate the ‘Festival of Light’. This year residents were asked not to use firecrackers, but reports have it that there was little reduction in their use despite the fact that the people had to breathe the foul air after the religious holiday was over.
As we came in to land it was impossible to see anything on the ground until we were close to touching down. I snapped a photo of part of a parked airplane that I could just barely make out in the gloom. Now to be fair, Delhi experiences a lot of fog during the winter months and this too added to the lack of visibility in the city. However, when we followed the reports of record levels of particulate matter in the air, we knew it wasn’t just foggy air we would be breathing.
The first time we spoke to Anil’s brother after we learned of his wife’s death early that same morning, Ajay told us not to change our plans and head to Delhi. He was quite adamant, and spoke in his colonel’s voice, but we ignored him because we wanted to be with family at this very sad time. In the end, Ajay admitted that he was glad that we had come. I feel strongly that family members need to come together for comfort and consolation whenever possible.
We were not able to make it in time to participate in the first rituals that are performed when a Hindu dies. However, the last ritual was held on the twelfth day and we were on hand for it. Anil thought that the religious ceremony, held at the home in front of a fire attended to by Hindu priests, would take place on the thirteenth day, but we learned that when the deceased is a woman whose husband is still living, the ceremony is performed on the twelfth day instead. I’ve been part of this family for over forty-five years now, but there is still so much to learn about the religion and the culture.
As I write this journal entry, we are preparing to leave for a long-planned trip to India to celebrate a much happier event. Anil’s older brother and his wife will be marking their 50th wedding anniversary on Feb 10, 2020. The three Kapoor brothers and their sister will be together once again, and several of the children of the four families will be in attendance at the gathering. Initial plans were for a much more elaborate anniversary party, but now that we’ve lost the youngest member of the ‘Gang of Eight’, we’ve decided that our time together will be somewhat more low-key.
We spent a little more than a week in Delhi during this time and I barely left the apartment because I’m very much affected by the poor air quality. It was great to have Ajay and Neeta’s grandchildren with us because they help to make the time pass more quickly when we got involved with playing games with them.
We had managed to change our flights home from Mumbai, so that meant that we were able to see some family members there before leaving for Canada. The air quality was much better than in Delhi, partly because our relative’s apartment is by the sea and partly because it’s on the seventeenth floor. However, the humidity in Mumbai was certainly something we had to deal with when outside, and we were always happy to return after a small outing and turn on the air-conditioning.