“It’s terrible, man.” said Anil. He was sitting at the wheel of his humongous diesel SUV as we were leaving the air pollution protest in Leisure Valley, Gurgaon.

“I was speaking to Meeta and we’re both really worried about the pollution.”

In the eight years I had known Anil, this was the first time he had mentioned Meeta and him agreeing on anything.

“There has to be something good in this.” I said to myself.

As a child I was always told “Look for the silver lining.” or “There’s always a bright side.”

Anil’s words were a clue. So I started researching what air pollution does to a marriage. I was shocked at what I found. Air pollution is the fount of conjugal and familial happiness!

The Centre for Research and Action on Marriage and Promiscuity (CRAMP) has done extensive research into the subject. Their research shows that Gurgaon has the nation’s highest rate of extra-marital affairs. Evidently, this is because everybody wants more than what they have, and everyone is stressed. Mumbai and Bangalore were a distant 2nd and 3rd after Gurgaon.

CRAMP focused their Air Quality Index – Marriage Quality Index  (AQI-MQI) research on Gurgaon because it has extra-marital action and bad air. (CRAMP considers extra-marital affairs the most measurable indicator of an unhappy marriage.)

The research found that pollution forces couples to worry about the same things. Men in the survey reported spending most time thinking about their next car followed by their promotion & raise. The Gurgaon women’s list was topped by what they would wear at the weekend party. The second spot for women was a tie between “next dress to buy” and “the rising cost of getting eyebrows done”.

But pollution unites spouses – they worry about the same thing. Consequently, they talk more and find more common ground to feel unsatisfied together. That is a sound basis for a stronger marriage.

The feeling of economic well-being that pollution brings about also helps marriages. Pollution is great for the economy and the stock-market. Industries such as healthcare and pharma are booming. With nebulizers, air purifiers, pollution masks etc. going through the roof, it is no wonder that the Sensex has climbed to an all-time high. The chart below shows the rising AQI and its disproportionate impact on the Sensex.

This unexpected boom makes couples feel wealthier. They are happy spending and in general feel well-off. The television anchors on the money channels talk about the resistance levels in the stock market – not in the human body. That further enhances the feel-good vibe.

This glee results in more conjugal action also leading to increased sales of contraceptives. For Pharma, it’s a win-win.

Pollution also helps spouses rediscover hidden love. CRAMP found that because of masks, low visibility and watering eyes, spouses were found frequently hitting on each other. When the masks come off, true love would sprout again. We interviewed Deepali, one of the survey participants.

“I was so overcome and surprised when Deepak asked me out. He seemed even more surprised when I took off my mask and said yes. We went on a date after five full years.” She said, wiping tears of joy from her eyes.

“Honestly, I mistook Deepali for Leena, but when we went on that date and sat and chatted, it was really wonderful. Like old times again.” Deepak confided in me. He too had tears in his eyes.

(All names have been changed to ensure the marriage stays happy).

Pollution also has a positive impact on families. School holidays, working from home – all this means more time spent together as a family. CRAMP surveyed a sample of families. They reported spending this time sharing original thoughts and rich intellectual content on Whatsapp and TikTok.

So, next time you feel depressed about pollution, seek out your spouse and talk about it. Find common ground. And look at the Sensex. You may be able to peer past the haze and see the bright side of things. Figuratively, of course.

___________

This piece is an outcome of “On the other hand” – a creative writing exercise useful for dealing with writer’s block. We practice it at the Himalayan Writing Retreat, where we help people uncover the writer hidden within. If you’re interested in writing, please visit https://www.himalayanwritingretreat.com/bootcamp/ .

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