Writing in his weekly Navjivan on Our Dirty Ways Gandhi said that those who spit on the streets have no consideration for others. Today- Many decades later- while the world has become cleaner, spitting continues unabated in our country. And we can’t blame the government for this one.
In fact the only lull in spitting in public came in India in the 1960’s. When through posters and films- some governments to prevent the spread of TB- took up a mass education programme about the dangers of spitting. It was a part of the TB control drive of the government. It did reduce the incidence of TB but it could not harness spitting.
In fact, spitting in public has made a big come back. It has indeed increased since I was a child. Last week this paper reported that 2 million new cases of TB were recorded in 2009! Could spitting be one of the reasons contributing to this?
Go to any city in India. And you will witness spitting. On the streets. On the stair cases. In corridors. Some times even in the lifts. The manner a city spits could vary though. For example in Patna very often the spitter gathers the sputum in his mouth with a rasping, gurgling sound as if a canon is about to fire. In Puna the spitter spits through the spaces between his front teeth. He pouts, presses his lower lip between his two fingers in a victory sign and simultaneously releases three streams of spit. Hyderabad seems a more gender equal city as women spit here as often as the men.
The nuances may differ but the habit knits India together.
In Gurgaon spitting cuts across class. The rich merchant peeps out of his car window and spits. Where as his driver opens the car door ajar and spits. After all if his- often paan stained spit- flies off on to the body of the car it is he who will have to clean it. Then there are people who spit only on their early morning walks and others who spit through out the day. The early morning spitters are not innocuous as they may sound because they often dispose off their sputum and snot along with the spit on the street. So they brush and rinse their mouth in their wash basin but clean their respiratory tract on their walking track. Leaving a kind of a shimmering white carpet to welcome you. The extent and quantum of their welcome increases as the winter sets in. I am dreading to go on my walks now.
Then there are the Babus. These are colourful personalities. They chew paan and Gutka and stain the staircases and corridors red and brown. Playing oral Holi with the walls. I don’t know what pleasure they get.
Spitting is a health Hazard and one’s act of spitting may be distasteful to the other.
Our city, Gurgaon, the Millenium city, with the help of the MCG should take the lead in curbing this menace through a comprehensive campaign.
It should educate the populace on the hazards of spitting in public places.
It should have special campaigns for the lower income schools with focus on the fact that such habits will not allow you to move up in society.
When we come across a spitting act we should also politely point it out to the spitter that could he spit in to the drain please.
It should make it compulsory for the paan shop owners to have a dry (sand based) spittoon which does not require cumbersome cleaning.
It should impose a fine on spitting in public.
Every RWA should nominate a spitting inspector- who should be nameless and faceless- but who should discreetly, anonymously and in total confidence inform the offender through a letter in his mail box that where and when was the offence committed with a polite request not to repeat it.