Holding Your Breath in India
NEW DELHI — 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). A week later, Bram was able to return home.
When I became a South Asia correspondent for The New York Times three years ago, my wife and I were both excited and prepared for difficulties — insistent beggars, endemic dengue and summertime temperatures that reach 120 degrees. But we had little inkling just how dangerous this city would be for our boys.