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The art of expectoration

I was on an auto-rickshaw waiting for the traffic light to turn green. A gentleman on a motorbike slowly trundled to a stop next to our rickshaw. Sixty seconds to green. He then proceeded to remove his helmet, hocked up a big glob of spit and spat it on to the road. The rickshaw driver, not to be outdone, raked up a big one and fired his gooey missile at the road. After they had showered the road, giving it the much needed respite from the heat, they exchanged meaningful glances. They were brothers in arms, united by the love of a common art - Expectoration. The light turned green.

Before you relegate the art of spitting as a phenomenon only tied to the lower socio-economic strata, or to certain parts of the country, let me hasten to assure you that this is absolutely not the case. This art has a healthy representation from every part of the country and spans the entire socio-economic strata. I do not want to document the examples lest it quickly becomes unpleasant to say the least. If you still don’t believe me take the staircase (not the elevator) in any high rise in any city.

No wonder we have the highest incidence of air borne infectious disease such as Tuberculosis. According to a study conducted by a medical college in India - "90% of people are aware that spitting can transmit diseases but 75% have confessed that they find it difficult to give up the habit."

Clearly, this is a despicable habit that has to be eradicated. But what can we do? Should we engage with those who spit on the road? Plead with them if they are stronger? Order if they appear weaker? Penalties might work for smaller police states (I use the term loosely) like Singapore. Will it work in India?

Maybe, we should carry flyers that gently explain the ill effects of spitting and hand it over to those who we see spitting in public places. Maybe (as a friend of mine suggested), we should target hospitals that treat people for respiratory diseases and hand the flyers out to the patients.

All said and done, expectoration seems to be our favorite past time. We seem to have honed it to such perfection that leaves the beholder in awe. Thoughts?


Sangeetha Ramamurthy said...

Fantastically written!! This has been one of the touchy subjects brought up by many who compare the clenliness aspects of India and the west(generally speaking). But you are right about practitioners of expectoration becoming so thick skinned that nothing might deter them from changing their habits. Pamphlets explaining the effects is definately a good thought for people who still have some level of civic sense left in them. However for the hardcore spitters, public huimiliation might be one of the few measures that might stand a chance of getting any positive results. Blow up candid images of these people and flash it on billboards where people can see how disgusting it looks. Or something to a similar effect.

Pradeep said...

Nicely written article.
This problem though simple is a malaise spread across the country and not limited to how urban or rural the place is.

However, an interesting observation I would like to share and point out. I was there in the Delhi metro stations couple of years ago and did not see a single strain of territorial marking on the walls. Pleasantly suprised, I asked around and found out that fines if caught and signboards actually seemed to work. Hopefully, I will still be suprised next time I visit.

Point being, it may not be a lost cause, so in my opinion at least in urban india fines coupled by sign boards and hope that there is an iota of civic sense will be a good start.

Raj said...

I feel to have a long term effect the change should come from within. People must be aware of the ill-effects of spitting and littering in the roads. However, a sense of fear must also be instilled in the minds of the people to even start thinking about a change. The same bunch of people who would not dare to spit in a place like Singapore, are the first ones who would litter in India. The reason being that there are no stringent rules and even worse no one to enforce it. The person imposing the fines should not be a culprit. Even if we cannot implement rules through entire India, we can experiment one city at time or one zip code within a city at a time... May take a while but strict rules with proper enforcement would be the first step towards the change. Through generations it would then become a habit not to expectorate...

xpercept said...

Yes, blowing up the images is definitely a good idea. Probably have some sort of shock value. Delhi metro is that good huh?
Experimenting with one city at a time as a sort of a controlled experiment will probably reap better results.

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