On the sidelines of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM), a group of runners stood outside the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium with a health advisory: “The message was — if you have shortness of breath or chest pain, just stop. Safety is more important than any race,” says Jai Dhar Gupta, who describes himself as an activitst and entrepreneur for the health of planet and people. He knows though, that people who’ve trained for a marathon for months, aren’t going to listen easily.
Gupta, who runs Nirvana Being that provides clean-air solutions to companies, schools, and individuals, says this particular business originated out of a personal experience. In 2013, he’d gone for a 10 km run in the morning (he was training for the Athens Classic Marathon), and in the evening collapsed with a loss of 40% lung function. Over the next few years, he nursed himself back to health, and began running on the treadmill, which was neither fun nor hygienic (indoor air pollution and trapped sweat that breeds germs).
As he looked for a solution, he came across the N99 mask that could block out as much as 99% of particulate matter (PM) 2.5 in the air, which poses the greatest health risk of all PM types. As someone who had run businesses in the U.S. (he’d lived in San Francisco from 2000 to 2010), he began to import the Vogmask into India in 2014. Last year, he introduced the idMask, a sports version that is an N90 with a shatter-proof shield and a silicone seal to keep it in place. While it keeps out 90% of PM2.5, it is easier to breathe with, when on the run (presenting a resistance of 60-70% less than an N99).
At first, Gupta says he questioned whether this was “a private solution to a public problem.” It’s possible his alarmist communication is agenda-driven. But he says he realised that “I would not stop for the sake of my family,” especially his two school-going children.
“There is no quick-fix for the air pollution problem,” he says, adding that we therefore need to look at whatever means we can to help ourselves by reducing our exposure.
His newest import is an indoor device that pumps fresh air into an unventilated room, regulating oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
Every two weeks, he and 49 runners head out on a 10k from India Gate wearing masks, with a simple message that is not articulated: the best way to exercise in Delhi is with a mask.
Register for ‘Dare to Run’ on November 3 on the Facebook page; idMask, ₹3,000 with a single filter