Rastyavar Thuku Naka!...A Small Start.

Spitting on the road is a distressing sight to see. About a year ago, I started a campaign which in my mind was labelled as “Rastyavar Thuku Naka" which in Marathi language means ‘‘don't spit on the street”. I observed, during my morning walks in Juhu, a much sought-after area in Mumbai, India, that there were quite a few people who were dirtying the roads with this disgusting habit.

It is not rocket science to decode that this habit of spitting, apart from defiling the roads, could also be a contributor to disease and yet many people from all walks of life, the hyper rich and the not so affluent seemed to be afflicted by this malady. It irritated me no end and since there was no readymade solution, I decided to approach this cautiously and see if a little bit of friendly counselling would help. I had some experience of working as a volunteer with the Sathya Sai Trust and had seen and experienced first-hand how their volunteers undertook crowd control with a polite “Sai Ram” on their lips conveying a message without any aggression. This experience came in handy and I modified the approach slightly keeping the underlying non-aggression principle intact.

It was not easy to start. My first fear was that when counselled, the offender may resort to violence. However, I kept my fears aside and decided to take the bull by the horns.

One fine morning, when I was on my morning walk, I targeted the first offender, a strapping youngster. Not bothering about the potential violent reaction, I walked up to him and asked him why he spat. He had no answer. I asked him how it benefited him. He had no clear answer, but said he felt better after spitting. Then I explained to him that it is this very spit that acts as a medium of disease-causing tuberculosis and potentially spreading other contagious diseases. He probably never thought about it that way. But what remained in my memory was that he did not yell or get nasty about the unsolicited counselling session.

Another memory is of me counselling a taxi driver who every 10 minutes opened the door of the car and let loose a dribble of red fluid on the street. I was able to speak to him and reason out with him; after the initial defensive play, he appeared to see reason and promised not to do this again. I have no idea whether he kept up the promise or whether it continued after he dropped me off. But I keep trying and believe that we need to put an end to this habit.

Since then, I have met numerous spitters (for want of a better term) and tried to counsel them on the perils of this habit. All counselling commences with folded hands and a brief explanation. It gives me great satisfaction to say that from the first one to today, most people have regretted their action and sheepishly apologised.

Of course, there are smart alecks around. There was this chap who tried to brazen it out with the argument that I could not stop everyone around from spitting where they wanted. My reply was instantaneous to say I will counsel everybody that I meet and requested him to help me in this objective. He withdrew his aggressive stance.

Over the years, I have counselled numerous young chaps, matured individuals, educated professionals, uneducated labourers and fellow citizens from all walks of life Somewhere in the corner of my mind, I feel happy that at least some of them would have stopped spitting and probably convinced one more to do the same. Did I make a difference? Yes!

My campaign against this habit continues to this day. Through my business and social service foundation, we have printed cards which we give out to people with the simple message “Don’t Spit on the Street”!

We owe it to our people to keep our neighbourhood, city, state and country clean and our citizens healthy. Remember, the Central Government spends Rs.12,000 crore per year, under its successful Swachh Bharat Program to keep this country clean. Our country has become cleaner and awareness has risen. And, the Central Government spend is in addition to the money spent by all Municipal Corporations, Panchayat's, and other Government bodies through sanitation departments. If only we discipline ourselves, this money could be used for healthcare or other welfare benefits and infrastructure.!

Can I see one and all join me in this campaign? This needs no organisation, no Trust, no government, no citizens body. It just needs you, the wise citizen.

Jai Bharatham.