A Spitting Tribute?
By C.V. Subramaniam
‘Clean up after yourself’ More and more; this seems to be the dictum strictly being enforced by BMC’s clean-up marshals who are tired of careless citizens littering the streets to keep the city streets clean’. This was a news item on the NDTV channel. And there is a penalty of Rs.200 for anyone caught I’n this act, failing which the person is forced to sweep the place. Good intentions, of course. This made me reflect a little more deeply on this careless act by citizens across the city.
While walking on roads in Mumbai, particularly suburbs, you must have seem people in groups standing and gossiping on the roads, spitting right under their feet, on the road, in turn; people walking alone on the roads, resorting to this ‘cleansing’ act at regular intervals, with frequency varying with various people, you must have seen auto rickshaw drivers enjoying this past-time during their ride, unmindful of it’s possible ‘side’ effect (due to wind), on the passengers they carry ; all of them these days sport on the back of the rickshaw ‘don’t spit, spitting spreads TB’, which is any way not meant for them, since they won’t be seeing; bus drivers doing their chore repeating at each stop, or even at stops due to red signal; the bus passengers occasionally indulging in this act, particularly those lucky enough to get window seats, and those that are occupying non-window seats trying to reach out to the window, over the shoulders of co-passengers. The list could go on.
How do they perform this art? There are many varieties in terms of the ‘content’ and the ‘reach’. The ordinary act, where the content is little and the reach is small. The ‘special’ act has a larger reach and force too. Very often this special has a colored content, due to chewing of pan, tobacco etc. and sometimes, the spitting is done through a V made with his first and second fingers to target this content at a particular spot. May be this V signifies his victorious feeling. Even women and children vie with men in terms of excelling in this art. You can some time find large size ‘map’ like figures in some efforts, often red-coloured presumably through group efforts, which could make you think: ‘Is the city being turned into a ‘pink’ city. School children are no exception, since they have the habit of imbibing everything from their parents.. Many a time roads near bus stand literally look so dirty with splashes of spitting of all sorts, by all sorts of people. Are they attempting ‘modern art’ on the roads through such splashing? No one engaged in this act is bothered about cleanliness and the harmful effects on the general health and hygiene.
We name roads and streets after leaders to honor them,often with small ceremonies? And, at the same time, are we spitting on these same roads in contempt! How bad indeed. Do our great leaders,be it Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Swami Vivekananda etc. deserve this sort of treatment? Well, in the case of the present leaders, if anyone of them is asked what is their last wish, they might as well say: ‘for heaven’s sake, don’t make any memorial for me, and particularly, don’t name roads (repeat roads), after our names!’
‘Don’t blame the Municipal Commission, if you find the garbage cleaning shoddy, for even the rocket scientists are scratching their heads on how to manage solid waste in space’, read a TOI news item. Scientists would come out with their own advanced tools for their needs. But the Municipal Commission cannot absolve their responsibility. They should find out ways and means to keep our paths clean.
We read in papers about people spitting on roads being caught and fined. Have we failed in this effort too? As one simple solution, could we think of discovering some medicine to make people quit this habit, as in the case of cigarette smoking? But the question remains – will there be takers? The problem has become an SOS – save our saliva – and, of course, save our streets, through this ultimately.
The recently launched campaign against illegal hoardings to project the images of our political leaders, I think has given rise to various suggestions to tackle this problem. Can we not attempt a mass campaign against spitting too?