Beauty With An Ugly Underbelly—

Has Guwahati Become A Spit-City?

Anxious and cautious—I tread Guwahati streets and footpaths as if performing breakdance—but   fail to avoid landmines of grey grease, purple phlegm, and many-splendoured spit. I salute the artistes from the “Salivadorian School”—who paint the city in myriad hues and shades with their spit and sputum. 

Perhaps no other city has embraced spitting the way we have! Whether Guwahati has become a Spit-Hati, a Spit-City, a Spittoon? The contrast is incongruous—a city so beautiful, yet so filthy—a beauty rendered with an ugly underbelly.

Prime Minister Sri Modi mentioned this national pass-time in Mann Ki Baat. So rampant is the spitting obsession in Guwahati that the Chief Minister Sri Himanta Biswa Sarma, while inaugurating the new flyover, appealed to the citizens not to spoil it with spit. Some shameless people lost no time in creating ugly spit-patterns on the flyover and its artistic paintings.

Why blame? Besides pandering to our artistic cravings, spit comes in handy to manage the mundane—licking stamps, counting currency, and turning pages. Damn the hygiene, kill the aesthetics, murder the environment.

The poor spit while walking, the rich spit out from fancy cars. We are spot on when we spit, and spoilt for choices—pavements, parks, pillars, posts, or pits. Apathetic and immune, it is perfectly normal to spit and be spitted upon. Nonchalant, we take spit in our stride—literally and metaphorically—and carry it home. Hats off to our stoicism, we cope up with the outpourings from the sundry orifices with equanimity. We let out a peculiarly sheepish laugh to salute the free spirit of the fellow spitting on us from the bus window.

Why Spitting Must Stop

But it is no laughing matter. Public spitting is disgusting, dirty, and dangerous. It offends our senses, spoils our surroundings, and spreads disease. Spitting pollutes natural ecosystems of air, water, and land—degrading environment.

It affects aesthetics, turns off tourists, and shows state and its people in poor light. Spitting depletes the already scarce time, money, and medical resources. It is reported that Indian Railways spends Rs. 1,200 crores and oceanful of water every year to remove the spit stains from the tracks, platforms, and coaches.

Health Hazard

Spitting is a huge health hazard. It spreads Covid. It also spreads TB, hepatitis, viral meningitis, cytomegalovirus, etc. Researchers say that the spit droplets containing Corona virus can spread to a radius up to 27 feet. The pathogens remain in the air as well as on surfaces for several hours. 

We are a country of 140 crore people. Even if we take that 50% of the people spit in public—it is 70 crore people spreading dread and disease—daily. It’s mind boggling. 

Psychology Of Spitting

Many people believe saliva is a harmful waste and they must throw it out as soon as the body produces it. People also spit out of sheer habit, even unconsciously. According to WHO advisory, chewing smokeless tobacco (khaini, zarda, gutka, paan and paan masala with tobacco) and areca nut (supari) increase saliva production and enhance the urge to spit repeatedly.

Spitting—especially on the face—is an extraordinary instrument for expressing disgust, disrespect, contempt, anger, and hatred. The spitters also use it to show their superiority, power, and masculinity. 

Superstitions And Spoil Sports

Greeks practised ‘Ritual Spitting’ and ‘Spitting Thrice’ to ward off evil spirits. The Masai tribals of Kenya spit in their hands before shaking hands with others to show respect. Till recent past, the kings, the queens, the rich, and the famous in India, Europe, and US—used exquisite spittoons to deposit their royal spit. Westerners are quite sporting about spitting, and engage in spitting competitions such as ‘cherry pit spitting’ in Michigan, ‘cricket spitting’ at Purdue University in Indiana, and ‘olive pit spitting’ in Israel. 

In India, many mothers spray spit on children uttering ‘thoo thoo’ to protect them from ‘buri nazar’ (evil spirits). The rural folks spit on minor wounds for healing. People in the Hindi heartland use many imaginative idioms and metaphors such as ‘thookta hun tum pe’ (I have nothing but contempt for you), ‘thook kar chatna’ (to go back on one’s words), and ‘thook bilona’ (to speak too much).

The Laws

Covid came in handy for the government of India to enforce the Disaster Management Act, 2005. It made spitting in public places punishable with a fine or imprisonment or both. Spitting in public places is also an offence under the Guwahati Municipal Corporation Act, 1971. Guwahati Municipal Corporation(GMC) has recently announced a cash award for reporting public spitting, and requested citizen’s participation in keeping the city clean. It can do much more.

The Spit Free Street

Making laws is not enough. We need effective enforcement and monitoring. Installing CCTVs and deploying flying squads will help in catching the culprits. Government must be strict in imposing ban on sale and consumption of gutka, paan masala, tobacco, etc.

Curbing spitting habit requires change in public attitudes, behavior, and choices. Persuasive tactics, rather than coercion and control through stringent laws and blanket bans, will yield better results. Spitting can be tackled if a mass awareness campaign—akin to a crusade—is launched and sustained till it is wiped out. This must become the city and state priority. 

Covid has given an opportunity to put this problem on radar, and to bring an end to it. It is now or never. Speaking only about masks, hand wash, and maintaining distance—and not cautioning about spitting—is like closing three windows but leaving the fourth open for the evil to enter.

We can teach spitting etiquettes through grassroot campaigns and participation of citizens. “No Spitting” signposts will warn people. Advertisements on auto-rickshaws, taxis, and buses will create a buzz. Social media campaigns will have a wide reach and awaken netizens. When ‘Swatch Bharat Mission’ was launched, children taught the elders to not to litter—these kids can do wonders in the war against spitting. 

People listen to religious, community, and political leaders for right or wrong reasons—their words will have the required impact. Artists, sports persons, film stars, teachers, press, and the medical fraternity can lend tremendous support.

The awareness campaigns have to target both—those who spit, and those who don’t. Involving non-spitters is the most effective ant-spit strategy. Imagine 70 crore non-spitters persuading 70 crore spitters—each one stopping one. 

Our City Our Character

I write this because I love my city, and wonder—can we ever hope to remove the perpetual spots which stain our life, time, and place? And I write with screaming sarcasm, hoping to awaken citizens from their stupor. Can we all spit on spit—so we don’t have to exclaim ‘Oh shit, spit’—at every step.

We can continue to split over spit, or be in splits over it; drown in spituphoria, or rise in spitcstacy. But think—people’s habits define a city’s character, and what is a city—if not its people.

I recently visited my hometown Guwahati. The rampant spitting was so much in face, I had to spit out my disgust, ‘dos’, and ‘don’ts’. “G Plus” carried my sentiments in the published article below:

G Plus Spitting Article Image

Work Hard n Party Harder ?

We come across workaholics who sacrifice their health, mental peace, relationships and pleasures that life offers for the sake of excessive work, endless earnings, or both, even if they have gold in their teeth and diamonds in their toes.

At opposite end of the spectrum, we encounter the breed who treat work as part-time hobby at its best, and as a dirty word at its worst. Their priorities are shopping online, shopping offline, partying and more partying. They waste the best years of their lives (when the adrenaline is pumping in full force, and limbs, mind and faculties are at their prime) seeking the fake and indulging in the frivolous. They consider themselves as a gift to the mankind and take people and privileges for granted. When cautioned or counselled, their inflated ego can’t tolerate and they throw threats and tantrums. The close ones give up. The savings, largely ancestral, are blown away. The long rope of time and space thrown for bringing them to senses is used to hang themselves. Atrophy soon sets in, the rot is irreversible, the decay is complete, total and final.

And mind you, both the specimen are mindful of the consequences of what they are doing. It’s mind-boggling, flabbergasting. The fire in the belly is in the wrong belly.  

One deserves when one earns, or at least sincerely tries. Also, all work n no play makes us dull n boring.

So the Mantra ? …..Work Hard and Party Harder !

 

Live n Let Die !

We all sooner or later reach a station in life where we get bogged down with pressures of managing our past or present relationships, business/job, health, feelings of redundancy or irrelevance. I say, insert a twist in the tale…spit out the unsavoury, ignore the unwanted, begin dancing to your own tunes, wink at yourself remembering peccadilloes in Piccadilly/Pan Bazar or Police Bazar, raise a toast to yourself, and sing at the top of your voice Dr. Alban’s “It’s my life”. Let your hair down, love yourself unapologetically, and be a harmless hedonist. Cheers to the free spirit…flowing or otherwise. Live n let die*.

(*the sad feelings)

 

Right or Wrong!

The well-meaning agencies caution us against paying child-beggars, but we wish to help them out of pity or to assuage our own guilt feelings; the mind forcefully argues against riding on the dignity and drudgery of the old rickshaw puller, but his plight tugs at the heart to allow him to earn his bread….

In situations such as these, where the heart pulls in one direction and the mind pushes in the opposite, can we, as humans, ever sit in judgment over what is right and what is wrong?

Right or wrong, in the conflict between the conscious and the conscience, I am inclined towards the latter.

Living In Denial !

Living in Denial: Udhar Ki Zindagi !

These days we see many living in denial……. in denial of their own strengths, weaknesses, situation in life..….both in thoughts and behaviour. They deny what is factual, and flaunt a life full of fabrication, falsehood and fakery…..to deceive first themselves, then others.  It begins with the make-believe and showing off, becomes a pretentious habit, and soon acquires dimensions where it is a permanent trade-off of ‘what is’ with ‘what is not’. Seeking constant validation outside, they lose sight of the worthy and the important, and devote endless hours and energy to the frivolous activities for others to gain their appreciation. We also see this in social settings where in order to compete with the rich and famous, they boast, name- drop, and indulge in endless self- aggrandizement (paraded with put-on accent), reducing themselves to the ridiculous and pathetic. Bordering bizarre, they believe in this self-perpetuating lie….in their pseudo existence/udhar ki zindagi.

HORSE SENSE

LET’s NOT IMPOSE….NOT EVEN GOODNESS!

Subtly show the right choices to the family’s young adults, but don’t make their choices; they will make their own intelligent ones…..when they want to.

All are comfortable in status quo and instinctively resist any change, and therefore, become defensive and defying to defend the ego.

Why insist or instruct, and come across as interfering? Let them sing loud and dance electric to Dr. Alban’s “It’s my life”, and join the party. Why be a spoilsport.

Forget coaxing, cajoling, cautioning and correcting. In today’s world, we can’t even bring a horse to the water, forget making it drink. Horse Sense!

Someone’s Pain, My Pleasure ?

The dead depart and the accused are arrested, but the world around rest of the crestfallen family falls apart. We relish gossiping about and deriving voyeuristic pleasure from tragedies befalling others. Gruesome details, innards and all, are shared and forwarded endlessly and instinctively with glee and become fodder for free entertainment. It is forgotten there are none without dark hidden side.

As evolved beings, can we curb this primitive urge, and show sensitivity by shunning the senseless and being sensible? Can we search deep within and allow a semblance of dignity to those who have to suffer ignominy for no fault of theirs? Can we just let them be?

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TOP 10 WAYS TO BECOME UNPOPULAR & UNWANTED!


TOP 10 WAYS TO BECOME UNPOPULAR & UNWANTED!

(Written in good humour with the belief that unlike animals we can laugh at ourselves)

 Most of us have read “How to Win Friends & Influence People”, but none has thrown light on “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People”, though just like death-wish, many have that unfathomable desire to be despised. Well here is the definitive recipe:

 1. Being heard is our birth-right. Speak loudly, uninvited & unnecessarily. Interrupt continuously and cut others off.

 2. Don’t lead a dog’s life. Be doggedly dogmatic.

 3. I believe, so I am! Be opinionated, impose your beliefs and make lives miserable.

 4. Name is fame. Name-drop till people drop dead.

 5. Must make up for that pitiable athletics performance in School. Jump to conclusions, be judgmental.

 6. Take one & sundry for granted. Life is all about give n take.

 7. Oh, you have been ‘giving’ so much of yourself. Appropriate all glory n credit, indulge in self-praise and belittle others.

 8. Be modern-minded. Be a first-rate hypocrite.

 9. Be fashionable. Wear ego on your sleeve and arrogance on your collar.

 10. Pretend and fake shamelessly. Duplicate Louis Vuitton shines brighter.

There are People, and there are People!

Some people are so “in your face” and wear so much of themselves on their sleeves. They flaunt their self- imposed “superiority” shamelessly and brag endlessly about their knowledge, hard work, achievements, contacts and so on. Some do it blatantly and some are nuanced having mastered the art of subtlety. Their ego drips and arrogance oozes out of every pore of their being. They are also adept at blaming others and the circumstances for the occasional two drops of sweat. They consider themselves and expect you too to regard them as God’s gift to mankind (womankind if you like).

And there are people (though the breed is rare and fast vanishing) who keep a low profile, are polite to the ‘P’, do their honest day’s work and some more, are intelligent indeed, extend help where needed, and neither brag nor complain.

The contrast is striking n stark !

Arrogance of the Knowledgeable !

Many business executives, government officers and professionals reply with great contempt when asked for some information. This derision and disdain is seen even in families. Many a times their silent scorn shouts louder than the screaming sarcasm.

Those “knowledgeable” when they sneer and snigger forget that the “knowledge have-nots” have alternatives. One may feel important by pulling others down, but arrogance alienates and humility endears. Pseudo Facebook Likes are no measure of true likeability.

 Shall we then, pass through knowledge to arrive at simplicity, humility ?