Khaike Banarasi paan, don’t spit: Rs 500-fine will follow stains in Varanasi
Varanasi Don. 1978. Khaike paan banaraswala, khuli jaye band akal ka taala.
A cheeky Amitabh Bachchan opened his locked mind chewing a Banarasi paan to a mouth-staining red pulp before spitting out the concoction and breaking into a jig. The peppy strain remains a hit four decades on.
As does the love for paan of people in Varanasi, or Benaras, that inspired the track in the sell-out Bollywood movie. Also the long-lasting reddish paan stains on walls and roads that millions in this holy city by the Ganga have spat out, mindlessly.
But mind it now. The Varanasi Municipal Corporation plans to fine people up to Rs 500 for each paan spit and Rs 100 for littering public space with mahua-leaf wrappers — the triangular sheaths in which the popular chewy mixture is sold.
It is part of a mission to clean out the litter and spit smudges in the city that the Prime Minister represents in Parliament. More penalties are lined up for offences such as people urinating along roads and defecating in the open.
Municipal commissioner Nitin Bansal said there is no ban on chewing Banarasi paan, but people must enjoy it responsibly without spitting and throwing the wrappers in public places.
Paan is a mildly intoxicating preparation wrapped in a leaf, usually containing tobacco, betel nut and flavourings. It is chewed as a stimulant, digestive aid or simply as a mouth freshener and spat out.
The Banarasi paan is as legendary as its place of origin, the world’s oldest living city. Shops selling paan are dime a dozen along roads, bylanes and the famous ghats.
One such establishment invented a “Shahrukh special”, named after Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan who stopped at the shop for a paan during a recent movie promotion in the city. The special item sells like hot paans. Pun intended.