The Pol­lu­tion Mask as Ac­cou­trement

The Economic Times - - Breaking Ideas -

Masks fit­ted with mi­crofi­bre fil­ters have joined the list of thriv­ing busi­nesses spawned by state fail­ure: in­vert­ers and bat­tery stor­age of power to tide over oc­ca­sional grid fail­ure, water pu­ri­fiers to com­pen­sate for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s in­abil­ity to keep sewage sep­a­rate from piped water sup­ply to homes, a rich va­ri­ety of in­sect re­pel­lents and swat­ters, to keep at bay the mos­quito, which hums a daily paean to our col­lec­tive fail­ure to stop pro­duc­ing breed­ing pools of water. As you step out for your morn­ing walk or jog, the spouse who keeps a con­sci­en­tious count of sus­pended par­tic­u­late mat­ter mea­sur­ing 2.5 mi­crons or less in the neigh­bour­hood, calls out to ask you to wear the mask that has been bought for you.

You pop on the mask and pre­tend that you do not no­tice the re­sem­blance you have ac­quired to the ban­dits you first saw in the comic books of your child­hood. As you ac­cel­er­ate the pace of your walk, the faint chem­i­cal smell that suf­fuses the mask’s fil­ters be­comes a stench. As you be­gin to jog, the mask be­gins to wheeze for you, the fab­ric press­ing against your nos­trils heav­ing like the sides of a dog go­ing at full tilt. Fel­low walk­ers walk past you and you won­der if you, too, have been un­mind­ful of masked park ac­quain­tances. Lost in thought, you stuff a peanut into your mask and pre­tend you did not pro­voke that peal of mer­ri­ment.

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