We breathe air. We breathe air. We breathe air. We breathe…. We…. breathe… air…But what is this stuff called air? There are so many ways to open up, define, and explain what air is. It is the medium of this thing called atmosphere. 

It is everywhere, at least between the terrain and the ends of atmosphere (where is that exactly?). It is in the cracks of earth, apparently in water, it is flowing through all living creatures at the moment. 

It is not however only Oxygen. It is air. Air is not pure. It perhaps appears, even more after COVID-19, that air was never pure. And the idea of a pure air is some imagination of the ideal air, that is not from this world, but from some other world. The air of this world is filled with bacteria, dust particles, viruses, fungi, humidity, sand particles, human farts, cow farts, outbreaths, camel breaths, fog, bird pee, toxins, fragrance of flowers, smoke of cigarettes, of candles, of incandescent sticks, of mosquito coils, factories, those burning farmlands; infused with mosquito repellents, the perfume that you sprayed this morning, the leaking methane gas in someone’s kitchen, the pheromones from bodies, particles of that burning paper; the smell of the neighbour’s dosa, your colleagues lunch box, the conditioned air stuffing your room, that fibrous dust settling on your ceiling fan, the steam and oil mix evaporating your kitchen, the sweat of the runner, the cook, the anxious person, the traffic police, the teenager, the old woman, ( do pigeons sweat?); the spit of the paan and tobacco eaters, the sneezers snort, the cement dust, wood dust, brick dust (oooh that smell of wet brick), pollens, steel rust (egh! that cringe), the threatening volcanic ashes…

We breathe all of the this, all the time. We breathe the impure. 

Air evokes the imagination of romantics yearning for the message of the loved ones. It is the medium connecting my breath to my lovers breath. Air is the mood of the room, the street, the landscape, the horizon, that boat ride, the uncalled for violent night, that uncalled for violent twilight…. It is the mood of the hope, of a city, of a group, of a lover, a child… for a different evening, different tonight, different tomorrow.

Air is invisible to humans, so we have been told. We see only wind brushing the trees, carrying dust, snow, fog, moving clouds, streaks of airplanes, a paper floating, a petal drifting, fluttering wings of a bird, gliding of a bird. Air is a buoyant medium we are all immersed into.

The oxygen in the cylinder, the nitrogen in the cylinder, the helium in the cylinder, the methane in the cylinder, the petroleum gas in the cylinder, the nitrous oxide in the cylinder…

Air is lacking in the deep crevasses of earth, so we are told. But there are all kinds of gases, beneath the earth. Gases that get transported across continents. That mouldy, fumigating, sickening smell. Air lacking in deep oceans. Yet, there are infinite air bubbles found in all imageries of oceans. 

This air is something!

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