>> Friday, March 12, 2010
We were on our way to Thampanoor to see off a friend at the railway station.It was early morning.The street vendors had just begun to spread magazines and news papers on the road side.People were leisurely sipping steaming tea at the tea shops on the pavements.The roundabout in front of the station was a bit crowded,and we were waiting for the vehicles to pass.There was a wall to our right side,which was the boundary of the Bus station. A middle aged man was walking towards the bus station, paused suddenly,looked around and then approached the wall. His head was being turned around like an antenna,and he slowly finished his urination on to the wall..When he was about to finish,another gentleman who was passing by saw him , paused,and then approached the wall. I thought, how easy it was to make friends while doing this act,because both were leisurely chatting all the while ,and were not in hurry at all .At the end,they finished the job and bid bye to each other and walked away.
There are not many walls around the city these days.These public performers prefer walls, the way dogs pefer lamp posts.I was reminded of the usual scene in the eightees, when we were approaching Madras Central by the Madras mail. Like crows perched on the electric wire ,one could see hundreds of men and women squatting on the railway track,and defecating ,all the while chatting happily.I dont know if things have changed.
Thankfully, this seems to be predominantly male activity; men seem to be unable to contain their bladders when confronted by certain smelly walls; much like a dog and a fire hydrant; mercifully, no such Pavlovian response seems to be triggered in women so we don’t have squatters all over the place.
Nowhere else in the world, I would imagine, is it necessary to place notices and directions such as these: “Please do not Spit”, “No Urination here”. To quote an oft repeated phrase, "It Happens Only in India" it would seem. Whereas it should be an obvious tenet for people to follow, that they should not be going around spitting, urinating and littering, in India it is necessary to actually state this in writing to admonish and prevent people from doing so.
The spitting malaise is one that is observed across social and economic strata. Not only will the humblest of the humble be found hacking and spitting great gobs of phlegm on any pavement that he may wish, you will find a stream of foul red, the ubiquitous ‘Murukkan thuppal" emanate from expensive cars as well. In this, all of us Indians stand firmly united; the walls and stairs and even lift shafts in many cases, are permanently marked by the disgusting evidence of people’s complete disregard for hygiene and civic sense, particularly with regard to public property.
The same people who will scrupulously have their entire homes swept and swabbed each day without fail, will think nothing of depositing garbage on the road, or outside their train, bus or car window with utter disregard for public areas and others who use it.
Talking about men and disgusting behaviour in public there is also the scratching in unmentionable places that men seem to find quite acceptable; often thinking nothing of raising their shirts to stroke a grossly rounded tummy even! Pity there is no fine for such revolting public fondling. It is a sad comment on our society that there is an actual need to explain to people; “No scratching Here, or there or anywhere….”
There is filth, garbage, dogs and cattle everywhere…” Isn’t that a compliment to our rulers? We may boast of awards in some fields, but in the kingdom of the blind the one-eyed is king. The fault for the problems of filth and garbage do not lie with the government alone, as we, the citizens, too seem least concerned about the lack of hygiene and sanitation. Or else we would not have had the detestable sight of roads, drains, nullahs and open spaces filled with plastic bags, garbage and dirt.
Using 'everybody does it' is an excuse and only an excuse. In India, even prominent personalities indulge in proud displays of lack of civic sense. Take for example, ministers who delay planes with complete disregard for other passengers or companies that freely pollute rivers and lakes. It is difficult for a country to change its mindset when its leaders themselves are setting bad examples, round the clock, all the time.
Civic sense is nothing but social ethics. It is consideration by the people for the unspoken norms of society. A lot of people assume that civic sense is just about keeping the roads, streets and public property clean. But civic sense is more than that; it has to do with law-abiding, respect for fellow men and maintaining decorum in public places. A lot of foreign countries function in a smooth manner because of the strong civic sense amongst its people.
The Union Minister for Forests and Environment, Mr Jairam Ramesh had made a frank admission that India is one of the filthiest countries in the world.And why does he think of a Nobel Prize for dirt and filth? India deserves it for corruption, for defections and the largest number of gangsters and criminals in Parliament, Assemblies and other elected bodies.
The problem lies also with the lethargy of the government. It is simply not accepting that something has changed over the years at a pace much faster than imagined and as a consequence, it doesn’t see the need to act fast and do justice to their jobs.With so many tourists arriving, we dont have a single clean public toilet anywhere near our so called highways. When the governments do not take up their job,the responsibility gets transferred onto us, the citizens who if alone doesn’t count, but when together, can get its voice heard everywhere.