Air pollution is now the world’s leading environmental risk factor. It reportedly causes 5 million deaths globally, India and China alone contributing 1.2 million deaths each. With increased inconveniences and suffering on account of the poor quality of outdoor and indoor air in India, it is imperative to look at how air is impacted by our activities, how it is regulated, and how it affects spaces and bodies across class and gender. In his book Dust and Smoke, Prof A Sharan, Director of Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, examines the history of smoke as a nuisance in Indian cities, particularly in colonial Calcutta and Bombay. Towards this, he studies varied sources of energy used for domestic and industrial purposes, the persistence of old trades, the organisation of industrial production, labouring practices, and urban development projects which produced new sites of work, habitats and commodities on the one hand, and smoke and dust on the other. The first lecture of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development’s new event series – Thinking through Toxicity – by A Sharan, will interest students and researchers in history, sociology, politics, urban studies, environmental studies and labour studies, and also those engaged in activism, policymaking and the regulation of urban air.