How does the culture of people or a community change or evolve? How long does it take and can the change adhere to a certain direction? These are questions sociologists can possibly answer, not laymen like me.
Despite the coming into force of the law banning spitting in public places, it is nauseating to see tens and scores and hundreds of people clear their throats to direct their sputum to points and places they prefer - while walking on the road, from autorickshaws, cars, vans, buses, from balconies and rooftops... I have seen drivers open the windows to let go. All that you can do is to shield yourself or take evasive action when you hear the sound of a throat being cleared or can clearly see a man pursing his lips, all set to take aim and shoot. Strange as it ay seem, I have not seen many women do this in Chennai or elsewhere – probably it is an attitude born of gender as well.
Out on an evening walk today, I stopped counting the number of men I saw spitting on footpaths, on roads, at hedges, at anything in sight. There was little I could do and I wondered where all the law enforcers were. Have they ever fined someone for spitting in Chennai? I doubt it.
And then, on my way back, a most horrendous scene – a youth urinating next to an ironing unit outside an apartment block in Ashok Nagar. I was thinking of the plight of the iron man who would soon come to resume his work, having to bear the plight of the stink and carry on.
Are we a sick society? I think so. What is the point in talking about cleanliness and environment in seminars in 5-star hotels when those who matter and the authorities concerned do nothing to stop such behaviour? Yes, of course, there are no public toilets, but who is to blame for that? If Tamil Nadu is such a progressive state where are the public toilets in Chennai, the capital? And the few that there are, are they in a state of use at all?
And what about getting people to stop spitting? Is the government doing anything about it? If the same people don’t spit when in Singapore why do they do it here and with such impunity?
Only questions. No answers. There are times when you feel like just giving up. I feel that way now.