Ramesh: Dude, I saw this girl yesterday at the bus stop. You won’t believe how hot she was.
Suresh: Yeah? (Opens a packet of gutkha and stuffs his mouth full)
Ramesh: Yeah, man. She was wearing this tight red top with a picture of Sylvester being eaten by Tweety. Here, I took a picture. (Shows the picture)
Suresh: (Raises his hand and spits the red goo out) That’s my sister, you moron!
Ameena: Oh, I love cleaning! I’ve got two maids this time. One cleans the house and the other throws the garbage out.
Chandrika: Really? You have got to let me borrow one. Please! I need someone to throw the garbage out too.
(Both of them walk past a pile of garbage dumped by the roadside)
Ameena: Oh, how disgusting! (Spits)
Chandrika: I know! I hate people who just throw the garbage out. (Spits)
(My neighbour wakes up at 5:00 AM and starts his daily ritual)
Neighbour: Gagogigagogagarhkhakkhak…thoo (Spits)
All right, as you might have guessed by now, I intend to talk about the “great” Indian habit of spitting.
I don’t know when paan or gutkha were invented, as I haven’t researched that (I do have a life, you know). However, from what I’ve learned from my grandparents, their grandparents used to chew these mouth fresheners with just as much etiquette as we do in the present times. By etiquette, I mean, chewing the vile things and spitting wherever you see a clean surface (whitewashed walls, light coloured clothes, your neighbour’s bald head, etc.).
The satisfaction of spoiling a clean surface can only be surpassed by the bonhomie arising out of spitting in a group. You can literally see the friendship blossoming between two strangers as they merrily paint abstract art with their paan-laden spit on the hospital boundary wall. Sometimes there are so many spit-art-hangouts, that you begin to question if the Broken Windows Theory applies to spitting at all.
Which makes you wonder: where does this love for spitting originate? I believe it develops at an early age. Young children in India often have spitting contests off rooftops where the one who can spit the farthest takes home the honour. Moreover, family members often reinforce their need for spit by acting like the two ladies mentioned above. Even in my case that was true. As a kid, I loved grossing people out by talking about poo and stuff; and I remember some of the older folks back then used to say “Chee” and ran outside to spit. Evidently, if you hear or see something disgusting, you need to spit. The sight of a crowd of people spitting in tribute to the neighbourhood garbage dump is not uncommon. Apparently, the act of spitting expunges the soul of the grossness, leaving behind the innocence of a newborn.
Just a single glimpse of my neighbour and his ilk performing this act can substantiate this argument. The contorted face, the baritone sounds originating from what seems like the stomach, and the retching; all indicate the passion with which the “spitter” delves into his reserves to draw out the blob. And if he happens to have a cold or flu, the volume is amplified with the green phlegm; never mind the orchestra emanating from his lungs. The spat out produce is the personification of the evil inside (Well, not personification, per se; blobification maybe, if that’s even a word).
Sometimes, I think we developed spitting as an art form to be practised and perfected. Maybe, there are some asanas in Yoga related to that. After all, you could argue that what my neighbour does is akin to a form of Pranayama. Perhaps, the focus and concentration required for producing a winning blob brings you closer to your inner peace, leading to Moksha.
Some would say that it’s a sign of protest. I mean, there is nothing better than seeing the Bollywood hero spit on the face of the villain as he tries to snatch the hero’s grandmother’s dentures (Wait, there’s no scene like that. They should totally make one though!). By spitting, we protest the government’s apathy towards sanitation. We demonstrate our willingness to stand up to tyranny. We demonstrate we will spit on the line of fire. We demonstrate that we are capable of defeating the enemy by grossing them out.
Whatever it may be, spitting is an integral part of the Indian culture. It’s one of the few things that unite us among the diversity of regions, religions and languages. I just wish we had a somewhat less saliva-related commonality.
You know, when I think about it. When people will read this post, they’ll spit too.
By the way, did I gross you out?
Now, you know exactly what to do!