I witness an average of five people spitting every 300 meters while walking on streets of Kathmandu, on any given day. (yes, I have counted these incidence; no, I am not crazy). I end up having mixed feelings of confusion, sadness, stupidity and anger regarding this spitt-o-cracy.
Average adult produces good amount of saliva each day, estimated range from 0.75 to 1.5 liters per day while it is generally accepted that during sleep the amount drops to almost zero. Thats average of 62.5 milliLiters of saliva every hour (omitting eight hours of sleep). Produced in salivary glands, human saliva is 99.5% water, but it contains many important substances, including electrolytes, mucus, antibacterial compounds and various enzymes. Here is a small abstract on my take of this habit.
What bothers me?
I say, the act of spitting in public is not culturally sound and wise. I know for a fact that there are few places in world where spitting is punishable public violation (read Singapore). As Wikipedia points out, spitting in someone’s face a universal sign of anger (hatred, or disrespect, or contempt). I don’t like when someone readily spits in public. I definitely think its a cultural thing in Nepal. For the last twenty years, I have lived in one of the most crowded region in Kathmandu. Walking a small distance (say 300 meters) gives me a front row view of spitting people (at least five) every time. I definitely don’t think that they were/are spitting at me (that would have been a disaster for my personal upbringing).
Who usually spits?
This being my personal view, I think that there is no gender gap in spitting. Women and men, children (teens) and adults are very much active spitters in Nepal. Most prominent spitters being old smoking females, and young adult boys.
Where can someone spit? (spit free zones?)
Our culture does not allow us to spit in our rooms, kitchen, or near religious places. Anything personal is off limit to spitting. Anything religious (be it a stone, a tree, or temple) is usually off limit to spitting). Everything else is a spitting zone.
favorite spitting zone (hate it)
5. Spitting from a moving vehicle (usually bus)
4. Spitting while walking a busy road
3. Spitting while drinking tea (public gathering in – chia-pasal)
2. The tobacco spit (anywhere and everywhere)
1. Spitting after paan. The ultimate ew!! spit. Grossly disturbing.
How are spitting and smoking similar?
We usually learn this public wrath from our friends or adult guidance. The difference being that spitting unlike smoking has no active health hazard, and there is no adult supervision on not to forcefully regurgitate saliva.
Is there any passive health hazard to spitting?
Tuberculosis (TB) is one very important disease in Nepal. I included in my national disease spectrum of nepali favorite five (other ailments being – gastritis, depression, UV prolapse, and worm infestation). The diagnosis of tuberculosis relies heavily on sputum sample (something that comes out from mouth, along with saliva). I assume half of the population in Nepal is Tuberculosis infected, and every time I see someone spit, I see TB flying out of his/her mouth. (TB infection and TB disease are two different thing. Infection being TB bacteria in you, without any ailments, waiting for your body to get weak before it wrecks havoc). Along with TB, there is very high chances of spreading flu, and other viral/bacterial respiratory tract infection through spitting.
The bus rides are the worst. Public bus rides from Kathmandu to Dhulikhel takes two hours. Most of the times I sleep my way through this. When I can’t, my hypochondria kicks in. This is the time I notice people splitting from window/s. Local bus rides have undefined number of bus stops (on this 30km strech) and every stop has few spitters working on their facial muscles.
Wikipedia – Spitting
Spitting or expectoration is the act of forcibly ejecting saliva or other substances from the mouth. It is currently considered rude and a social taboo in many parts of the world including the West, while in some other parts of the world it is considered more socially acceptable. It is possible to transmit infectious diseases in this way, including tuberculosis, influenza, and the common cold.
Spitting upon another person, especially onto the face, is a universal sign of anger, hatred, disrespect or contempt. It can represent a “symbolical regurgitation” or an act of intentional contamination.
Is there a public code of conduct against spitting?
There must be, but I have no clue. Have to read about it.
How can I contribute to stop this?
I can inform about the passive health problems that may arise due to public spitting.
Have I done anything, when I see someone spit?
Yes, I usually make that disgusting face, and say out loud – the word – chhyaa (it’s EEW in Nepali). Nothing more.
P.S. – will be taking break (from blog) till the end of January. Preparing for a wonderful exams, that is testing my patience of sitting in one place (chair in this case) for more than 12 hours every day.
- Nepal: UKBA introduces TB screening in Nepal (ukimmigrationspecialist.com)
- India: XXDR-TB cases in Mumbai quadruple in a year (crofsblogs.typepad.com)
- Salivary Gland Infections (topdentists.com)
- Risk Factors for Tuberculosis Infection (everydayhealth.com)