Saturday, February 23, 2013

What would you do? : Spitsville

Life is full of choices. But the most important ones are where you have to identify right from wrong and pick a path. We come across such moments quite frequently in our daily routines, maybe some of us give it a thought, and then we move on to follow our busy schedules. This column is my attempt to reflect on such occasions and not let the sense of responsibility escape from me, on the pretext of a busy life. 

Also, this is where I would like my friends, and readers to share their thoughts and think out loud about their experiences. I am hoping to open up a discussion and do the right thing as a community.

So, here goes...


Having grown up in India, "Gutkha Spit" was something that became part of the surroundings. As unhygienic as it was, I never saw the frequency of the spit marks go down. I remember corners of our apartment system lined by red streaks. Every other year the maintenance would paint the walls and within just a few weeks, the walls would return to their former glory, so to say. It was beyond my understanding what compulsive disorder people suffered from, unable to stop themselves from spoiling something pristine.

As I grew up, I got used to the fact that some things never change, the same thought a lot of Indians have grown up with. By the time I had my own independent thought process, there was nothing that used to annoy me more than people spitting all along the road, walking by. It had become part of their natural demeanor, and this with awareness signs all around. T.B used to be a deadly disease in India, and there was almost an epidemic of it. Given that, there were multiple public awareness programs, discouraging people against spitting, as that is the most common means of spreading the disease. Yet, people spit, they ignore their health and others' health. The "Chalta hai" attitude prevailed. I couldn't understand why nobody would stop these people.

And one fine day, on my way back from college, I just couldn't hold it in. I was riding my Dio, and the cyclist in front of me spit. I got ahead of him , and asked him why he had spit. He looked at me, with amusement, and said, "Aap pe gira kya (Did it land on you)?". As, I nodded my head in a "No", he was shocked to see me make an intervention, when it was supposedly none of my business. "Toh phir problem kya hai (So, what is your problem)?", said he in his defense.

So, my problem was that nobody thought it was their business. Why should I have had to be affected by it, before I can raise my voice? I tried explaining to him how spitting on the road is equivalent to spitting in his home. And he looked at me, like, I was crazy or something. But, one thing I did notice that he did not like to be cornered, and he quickly owned up, saying "Sorry". I drove away, but felt satisfied that I had at least conveyed that it is not okay to spit on the road. Maybe it was my naivety, that I thought it would change anything. But, today, 10 years later, I see things have improved a little bit. There are not as many red streaks along the walls of my apartment. And although, I do not know the reasons to this, I would like to believe that it was the voices of many people like me, that made things a little better, however little it maybe. 

Now, my question to you is, what would you have done in that situation? What would you do, today,  if you saw someone spit or throw trash on the streets? It is easy to expect everything to be clean and tidy, but who is going to do the dirty job, the dirty job of being loud and clear, of being stern and taking a stand "Sab kuch nahi chalta hai". I do not know if that person stopped spitting after that or not, but at least he spent those 2 minutes thinking about it. And sometimes, it just takes a thought to make you see between right and wrong. 

Have you had that moment? Have any of you had such an experience? Is it naive to expect one voice to change the society? Please share your thoughts!!


  1. I have had such moments! Not with spitting but with smoking.... I have told off many people :/

  2. Thanks for sharing, Rajrupa! Spitting, smoking, trashing... it is just an attitude if inconsideration towards others. We can just hope that our tiny contributions help!

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