Spitting mad! | art and culture | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Aug 22, 2017-Tuesday
-°C
New Delhi
  • Humidity
    -
  • Wind
    -

Spitting mad!

What is with men in big cars spitting at red lights? If they can afford a stretchy car I’m sure they can buy a spittoon! Damini Purkayastha cribs about how gross is 'spittin' around!

art and culture Updated: May 22, 2009 18:39 IST

What is with men in big cars spitting at red lights? If they can afford a stretchy car I’m sure they can buy a spittoon! Why must they roll their windows down, poke their heads out and splatter the road? I suppose one should be grateful they don’t aim their spit like a projectile!

Which doesn’t mean that other people don’t! Have you ever been parked beside a bus, when the bus waala decides to spit? In my head that scene plays out like a gun draw, with me rolling up my window faster than ever to beat the spit splatter. There’s the Wild Wild West background music too — unfortunately I have experiential proof that spit travels faster than windows.

And this is not the paan-variety — it’s plain ol’ saliva, biodegradable, non-staining stuff. But ugh, even then. A friend of mine who patiently heard me crib about the spit stuff just informed me that she has, on occasion, spit in Stockholm, Berlin, Prague, Munich and Belgium. I couldn’t believe she was serious and began to prod for a deeper, political
reason for this transgressive, anti-social behaviour. The profound reply sent my way was: “Because sometimes you just have to spit.”

If it’s such a natural thing, then why did the simple act become a social no-no? According to easily available online history, right up to the 1700s, publicly spitting was considered commonplace in Western Europe. But then light dawned and by 1859, spitting, especially around the ladies, was termed vulgar. Up until the 19th century spittoons were used everywhere for those who “just had to” spit; however, even those became abhorring and almost extinct. Forgive my social conditioning, but I happen to agree — puddles of spit lying around are repulsive, even if the spittoon is gold gilded!

I must confess though, last year on Christmas Day, I was standing with a bunch of people hooting and cheering a friend who was spitting on the streets of Scotland. Ah, but there’s a catch. He was spitting at the Heart of Midlothian — the only place in Scotland where an ancient law decreed it legal to spit.

The heart, a mosaic on a cobbled pavement along the Royal Mile, marked a 15th century tollbooth, a prison and an execution site. It was probably considered patriotic to spit on some poor fellow publicly hanged for treason because local legend says spitting here brings you good luck. I don’t care what the Scots believe; spitting anywhere, under any circumstance, is just gross.