When a pandemic invades us, mercifully our political leaders sensitize us about the harm of spitting in public. Good exercise! But, all along, all of us Indians are aware that this public spitting nuisance is very much an India nightmare.
Travel by train and you have your co-passengers taking the liberty of using their blowing power by courting the wind with their spit through the window. And, the innocent wind carries the germs far and wide at no extra expense.
While riding on a bike, I had a bus passenger’s betel spit landing on my head with hurricane speed. Another time, I had a footpath passenger’s generous spit spray on my face. When looked back at him, his face was a dead pan similar to the one in my latrine.
One does not have to be illiterate or uneducated to engage in this anti-social act. You find politicians, educated or not, officers, executives, professors, teachers, villagers and all enjoying a generous mouthful of a tobacco-betel-lime mixture. Quite many of them deposit tobacco dust below their lower lip. With all the kick they get, they get into an intoxication of spitting around liberally. All do not have spittoons to carry around like Lalu Prasad Yadav, former Chief Minister of Bihar. Sense and sensibility take a beating in the presence of spitting nuts.
In quite many government offices in North India one notices spit decorations liberally splashed around at staircase landings. Neither the officers nor the staff nor the public bother about such unhygienic practices or health hazards.
It is not just betel or tobacco that prompts people to spit. People suffering from tuberculosis, tooth decay, fever, typhoid or such diseases do feel tastelessness or bitter taste in the mouth. They naturally get the urge of spitting. But, the social problem is where they spit. I have seen train and bus passengers spitting below their seats. Once, when I gently questioned a man sitting next to me and spitting below the seat, he retorted, ‘What does it matter to you? I did it under my seat.’ A gentleman once told me that some travellers in air conditioned compartments use the folds of the blanket to quietly deposit their spit and phlegm as a gift to the railways and to later passengers.
Now that Coronavirus is knocking on our doors, we are displaying a sort of spit phobia. Even after the corona period, as decent and cultured citizens we need to grow into a sense of cleanliness and hygiene.
I wonder how many of us use a kerchief, a towel or a piece of cloth to over our mouth while coughing. Just like spitting, coughing in public without any thought of others nearby is a mad disease which many people are accustomed to.
Once, while travelling by tram in the Netherlands, I saw a lady with a sausage pup. In the course of the journey, when she noticed that the pup had used the floor for latrine, she did not make a fuss or run away with the pup to another compartment in haste. Instead, she quietly opened her handbag, took out a toilet paper and slowly and neatly picked up the capsule-like deposit with the toilet paper and folded the paper a number of times and put it in her bag. For us, Indian students it was a curious but instructive lesson.
Good habits do not grow like mushroom. They are part and parcel of good culture. They have to be cultivated. Parents, teachers, and elders have a responsibility in grooming their children or wards for cultivating good habits of cleanliness and hygiene.
Politicians may use their lung power in their attempt to stop the nation from spitting as a political DEMO. But, does it help in the long run? After all, people have to realise and learn good habits as part of good family rearing, good schooling and sensible growing.
(Published on 04th May 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 19)