Joining hands can help us cope

SINGAPORE - Coping. I think this is the one word that encapsulates the stories in our issue today.

Of course we've all had to cope with the thick haze that has enveloped us these past few days, haven't we?

The pale red orb in the sky is nothing like the sun that I have known growing up in Singapore. The air burned the eyes, it felt viscous enough to wade through and the buildings were ghostly, barely visible silhouettes in the near distance.

I wondered if this was what a post-apocalyptic world would look like. And going by Facebook updates, it was almost like the apocalypse anyway. People were experiencing asthma relapses, skin and eye disorders. Some were really angry about not being able to get N95 masks. Friends were scared for their progeny and were urgently discussing arrangements on how to best ferry the kids to avoid exposure to the pollutants.

Some railed at how they could still smell the acrid smoke in their offices and bedrooms - all evidence at how bad it was getting. Then, imagine all this when there is no respite. When advisories to stay indoors mean nothing because there are no filters or purifiers at home. There is no air-conditioning and it's the same as outdoors. That is the reality of life for some of the poorest families here.

Then imagine that when the PSI levels are double or thrice what we've seen. Welcome to the reality that is in the Riau province in Indonesia. Hapless villagers have to continue with life despite the fires burning away nearby.

After I read their stories, my own issues paled in comparison.

At least I have the option of driving in air-conditioned comfort, and taking the air-conditioned cab, bus and MRT when I didn't last week.

At least my friends have the option of ferrying their kids around in cars, or of escaping the haze with a holiday in Bali. Or so I read on Facebook anyway.

At least I can turn on the air-conditioning at home. Okay, maybe I'll be grumbling about my high utility bills next month. But at least I have that choice and option. Not a bad way of coping, I'd say.

Complaining and worrying via Facebook posts could be one way people express their angst and worry, but I'm really pleased that some among us are choosing to step up to the plate.

There are volunteers who are going around distributing food and masks to the elderly, who may not have any means to cope with the haze. There are others who welcome those in discomfort to their air-conditional homes.

Others distribute fruit to construction workers, who toil in the haze to build our city.

I reckon that's the way to go. Let's offer help if we can afford it, and not be ashamed to ask for help if we can't cope. That way we all, well, cope together.

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