There are broadly two kinds of people in this world- the realists and the idealists but who defines realism and idealism? This is a story of two such women, friends once but drifted apart by the waves of time. I could tell you their real names but then I might risk recognition so I will just call them Rhea and Ida. Here goes:
Entering the lavish spread of her drawing room, Rhea let out a sigh of relief. ”Home sweet home. Welcome to my humble abode Ida.” Rhea turned towards the lady accompanying her. Ida smiled,”It is beautiful!” she genuinely complimented. Rhea was used to appreciation of her artistically designed and aesthetically decorated house. In fact she took great pride in maintaining the household and keeping it spick and span. Today, she wanted to flaunt it in front of her friend who was once her competitor in school and now an interior decorator. Nothing like praise from an old opponent for something she masters in, eh?
”Oh, it is nothing. I just try.” Rhea gestured towards the sofa,”Have a seat.” As Ida was about to sit down, the sound of a spray made her look up. Rhea noticed and explained, ”Just the automatic air freshener. Hope you like lavender.” Ida nodded and settled in the plush sofa. ”Everything from the carpet to the wood for the furniture has been chosen by me. My home resonates with my personality. The warmth it exudes and the sense of security it provides take away the fatigue of the entire day the moment I step into the house.” Rhea got up and lowered the temperature of the central air conditioning of the house. ”Hope you are comfortable.”
”Yes, I am. I see you have done very well for yourself. I am quite happy for you.” Ida said.
”Enough about me, I can keep on blabbering the whole day. Where do you live?” Rhea tried to be modest.
”I live at the outskirts of Dehradun. It is more of a farm than a house. Not a very large one but just enough. I like fresh air and it also lets me indulge in a little bit of organic farming for my kitchen.” said Ida.
”Wow! Organic farming is the ‘in’ thing nowadays.’ Don’t you feel it is too much of an effort anyway? Everything is available in the market. I believe in realism not idealism.’ Rhea commented as her maid came with a plate full of potato shots and sweets. ”These snacks, for example, buy them frozen and fry them. You are sorted.”
”I believe otherwise Rhea. Sometimes, our beliefs about realism and idealism are skewed. Doing what is the need of the hour is realism, not idealism. Anyway, I was telling you on our way here that I am in town as I am speaking tomorrow evening at The Maple Tree. Care to join?”
”Of course. I heard you are much sought-after speaker. What are you speaking on?”
”Home Interiors- The inside story, your topic of interest.”
Dressed in all her fineries topped with the fragrance of expensive perfume, Rhea reached The Maple Tree exactly on time. She looked at the banner that displayed ”Home Interiors-The Inside Story with Ida Maheshwari” The hall was packed but there was a special place reserved for Rhea, courtesy the star speaker. Ida is popular indeed, Rhea had not gauged the same when she had bumped into a simply dressed Ida in the market the previous day.
Every breath you take
”The safe haven you come anchor at
The walls that keep your fear at bay
Where you breathe a sigh of relief
Hold that breath, what if I say?”
The lines projected on a huge screen in front of the audience and Ida appeared as the gathering applauded.
”Is your home safe? What if I told you it isn’t?”
The audience fell silent. Ida was known for her dramatic introductions.
She continued, ” We all believe in the theory that all dangers lie outside the four walls of our house and inside…inside we are safe! Our homes are our retreats, our relaxing pads and we take great pains in making them as comfortable and beautiful as possible. But do we try to make them safe and when I talk about safety, I am not talking about padlocks and CCTVs and anti-theft devices? I am talking about the most basic necessity-clean air. Is the air inside our homes clean?”
She let the question sink in and once the murmurs started, she spoke again,”Home interiors- the inside story” Do you know why I chose this topic? Because indoor air is five times more polluted than outdoor air and about 100 times more dangerous. Surprised? Even I was when I learnt more about it and since then I have been trying to look for solutions. Today, I will share them with you.
We spend about a minimum of 12-18 hours indoors, at our homes, offices, malls, hotels etc. It is therefore important to know first of all, what makes indoor air so polluted in order to know the solution. Know your enemy to defeat your enemy!
Sources of indoor air pollution
Looks like a beautiful living room, no? But do know that wood pressed furniture, varnish, upholstery, carpet constantly emit VOCs- volatile organic compounds that are linked to lung and heart diseases and even cancer?
We all love deodorants and perfumes, don’t we? So many of us are wearing them tonight as well. Right? Similarly, air fresheners are so handy when you have to remove stubborn obnoxious odours from the house. Then there are insect repellants, just spray them on the little kids and they are set to go and play. No fear of irritating mosquitoes. Sprays have changed our lives. Unfortunately, they have also changed the quality of the air we breathe in. These sprays contain VOCs, terpenes, phalates, paradichlorbenzene, formaldehyde….all these chemicals result in dizziness, headache and various respiratory problems. Long term exposure to these has been related to cancer incidence as well.
A clean home is a safe home. A no-brainer, you would say? Sounds like it but if the cleansers you use to clean the floors and furniture of our house end up polluting the indoor air, what purpose are they actually serving?
Molds, mildew and mites are very common in urban homes with faulty pipes, air conditioning leaks and in homes where pets live. They even reside in pillows and stuff toys. These small and seemingly harmless biological contaminants are a major cause of allergies and asthma in children. We just blame the pollution on the roads for the same, forgetting that we are actually rearing the culprit inside our homes.
With increasing urbanisation and construction, another danger has loomed its head. Radon is a poisonous gas that emerges from the bedrock below construction and is even found in the modern construction materials. It is said to be the second biggest cause of lung cancer in the world.
Do I even need to talk about this? We all know how dangerous tobacco smoke is. Combine it with ill ventilated indoor air and all the aforementioned factors, you can almost visualise all of us sitting in gas chambers.”
There was an eerie silence. Rhea gulped. Everything that she was extremely proud of at her home just sounded like the most awful choices she had made.
”So what do we do? I know that the picture I have painted is very dismal but unfortunately, it is the truth. But there never was a problem without any solution. The same goes for this one too.
Little changes go a long way!
1.Ventilate your house well. Open doors and windows regularly to let the air circulate. Use exhaust/chimney in kitchen and bathrooms to avoid build up of pollutants inside the house.
2. Invest in house plants. They not only purify the air inside our homes but look aesthetically beautiful too.
3. Maintain air humidity at 30-50%. Clean air conditioning ducts and fix leaks.
4. Use washable rugs instead of carpets.
5. Avoid the use of air freshener sprays. Make your own with water and essential oils. Insect repellants made up of essential oils can be used instead of those containing DEET.
6. Avoid petroleum based detergents and laundry products. Go natural. Use baking soda and vinegar.
7. Wash bedding frequently in hot water.
8. Grow and eat organic to avoid ingestion of pesticides.
9. Wear organic cotton. Cotton is the most insecticide- sprayed crop.
10. Quit smoking!
Follow these and teach them to your children as well. Let us leave for our children the gift of clean, pure homes instead of aesthetically beautiful ones. Afterall, true beauty lies in good health!”
Rhea woke up from the trance by the applause that resounded in the hall. She was supposed to meet Ida after the event for coffee but instead, she got up and left. She had a lot of work to do at home…a lot of changes.
Who do you relate yourself with? Rhea or Ida? I am an ex-Rhea or you can say, Ida-in-making…. In my quest for an answer to indoor pollution on one hand and the dilemma of getting the house painted before Diwali( paint the house and subject the indoor air to more pollutants or not paint and risk Divine displeasure), I came across an innovative solution- Royale Atmos paints. These paints not only emit fragrance instead of the usually ‘chemically’ smell of paints but also reduce indoor odours and formaldehyde, a common pollutant. They are further fortified with activated charcoal which purifies indoor air. That is like a 24×7 air purifier on my walls!
This is how I am cleaning up my home this Diwali…what about you?