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A New York Times Reporter Left Delhi To Save His Son’s Life, And His Story Has Gone Viral

After 3 years in Delhi, Gardiner Harris’ 8-year-old son's lung capacity went down to 50%. Harris's essay about leaving has concerned, outraged, and inspired the Indian internet.

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A few days ago, Harris left India's capital for fear that his son might die because of the pollution. Harris wrote in his New York Times article, "Holding Your Breath In India":


"FOR weeks the breathing of my 8-year-old son, Bram, had become more labored, his medicinal inhaler increasingly vital. And then, one terrifying night nine months after we moved to this megacity, Bram's inhaler stopped working and his gasping became panicked.

My wife called a friend, who recommended a private hospital miles away. I carried Bram to the car while my wife brought his older brother. India's traffic is among the world's most chaotic, and New Delhi's streets are crammed with trucks at night, when road signs become largely ornamental. We undertook one of the most frightening journeys of our lives, with my wife in the back seat cradling Bram's head.

When we arrived, doctors infused him with steroids (and refused to provide further treatment until a $1,000 charge on my credit card went through)."

In his article, Harris goes to explain that he went and spoke to some of India’s top pollution researchers.

Roberto Schmidt / Getty Images

One of them, Sarath Guttikunda said, “If you have the option to live elsewhere, you should not raise children in Delhi.”

Harris relates that he considered leaving Delhi, nearly two years ago, after his son, Bram, first fell ill and had to be hospitalised. He continues to say that although Bram's condition stabilised, the tests displayed that he had lost half of his lung functionality. On the doctor's suggestion Bram underwent a regular regiment of steroids, and as his condition didn't seem to worsen, the family decided to stay back.

Harris concluded his piece with a quote from his son, “My asthma will go away,” Bram said. “I hope so, anyway.”

Since publishing, Harris' piece has gone largely viral, sparking a lively debate as to whether Delhi is safe enough to raise a family.

Delhi suffers from a respiratory crisis, half of 4.4 million schoolchildren have irreversible lung damage from poisonous air @GardinerHarris

I just read your essay, Gardiner Harris. You are absolutely right. I hope your son recovers to good health soon.

New York Times' correspondent leaves Delhi saying Delhi pollution is killing his children. This comes as no surprise in Kejriwal's Delhi 😂

Frightening tale by Gardiner Harris of what filthy air can do to kids' lungs. Holding Your Breath in India http://t.co/bSuxxh0iLX

so this gardiner harris guy came to india for nyt, recall he started with dogs & monkeys. has ended with expats and millionaires. perfect.

New York Times' correspondent leaves Delhi saying Delhi pollution is killing his children. This comes as no surprise in Kejriwal's Delhi 😂

Pia Kahol, a writer for Daily O, wrote a rebuttal, arguing that it was inappropriate (and a display of "Western privilege") for Harris to be so critical of India.


"You will understand by now how I feel for Delhi. I feel for this city. I bemoan its conditions. I crave for a better Delhi. For millions of Dilliwalas, this is our home, our city, our pride, and perhaps our embarrassment. Delhi has an indisputable heritage and its roots couldn't be more cosmopolitan. Modern day Delhi offers wonderful and serene hang outs like Hauz Khas village, Lodhi garden, India garden, Humayun's tomb, Meherchand market, Lutyens' Delhi. Dilliwalas also know and love the nuances of various pockets of subcultures that thrive in the city's individual neighbourhoods."

Here's another rebuttal to Harris' piece.

Which added to the debate:

http://t.co/Buig69M41Q. lovely piece by @piakahol on why she chose to stay in delhi. @GardinerHarris please note. only @DailyO_

@piakahol Racism in America doesn't deflect from the fact that air quality in Delhi is the worst in the world.

Air pollution is reportedly the 5th largest cause of deaths in India, and Delhi's air is 4 times as toxic as the required safety limit.

BuzzFeed India has reached out to Gardiner Harris, but has not received a response yet.

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