One thing which we Indians can never resist is our chronic urge to spit in public places. It gets really unnerving to see people carve out various slaked lime cum half chewed tobacco on the road with their incredibly talented spitting juggernauts.
We just don’t seem to spare any place from receiving our mouthfuls. Roads, sidewalks, lanes, alleys, stairways, balcony banisters , the list goes on. The whole universe is our washroom, we can spit, anywhere and everywhere we want, Who cares?
The tryst of public spitting by Indians dates back to thousands of years. Chewing paan acts as a palate cleanser, mild stimulant, and a mouth freshener. However what has remained unchanged since then is this tendency of our desi brothers to unashamedly release the leftovers from their mouths in public places.
Have you ever come across a completely pale/white colored side wall /staircase banister or an office railing in any of the Indian establishments across the length and breadth of India (sic)? There are few public places in India which are free from the tell-tale red stains of paan.
Not long ago, I was riding a humble two wheeler on a heavily crowded market road, during the rush hours. Vendors flanked the ever encroached upon pavements on both side and humanity dashed past me in vehicles and on foot.
All of a sudden, a bus went past me and before I could anticipate anything, a tiny face popped out from one of the windows and released a disgusting torrent of thick crimson liquid from its mouth, creating a small reddish pool just a few feet from my wheel!
For a moment, I went blank. Wasn’t sure, whether I should be happy that the guy from the bus, spared me from receiving his ‘blessings’, or furious for his utter indifference towards civility!
Public spitting has finally begun to take its toll, which is very conspicuous in the Indian city of Kolkata. The Howrah bridge, that was built over Hooghly River during the British imperial rule is commuted by nearly 60000 vehicles every day.
This 67 year old historic bridge, an object of pride to the city of Kolkata and one of the largest cantilevers in the world has finally borne the brunt of incessant reddish liquids of half chewed betel nuts being spat down on the its metal girders by the commuters every day.
The corrosive properties of the lime in the paan, have reduced the protective metal coating of the bridge from its usual thickness of 6mm to 3mm. Infact, a senior government official confesses that if, the corrosion continues at such a rate, the historic Howrah bridge would have to be decommissioned for repairs, as told in the ‘Calcutta Telegraph’, a regional English daily.
Apart from causing structural damage, the acidic lime in the paan is the cause of various infectious diseases and casts a shadow on the environmental safety too. The Government of India has finally awoken from it slumber and has commissioned teams to clamp down of spitting major public establishments, to begin with. Civic teams have began spreading awareness drives in the Mumbai locals and the impoverished northern states of India, to name a few.
Why are we Indians so thick skinned and inconsiderate when in public? Surprisingly, the same Indian, when on a foreign soil, would not dare spit in public but in fact ensure that he abides by all the rules of public decency in the highest spirit. Civility is one thing, which has always eluded us. Wasn’t the 200 odd years of the English rule good enough to infuse a sense of public civility into us?