Gutkas, Bidis And Grandeur Of Those “Public Events”

Posted on November 28, 2010 in Society

By A M Radhika:

This actually happened. That kid couldn’t even reach out to the height of the counter at a local shop. I’d seen him coming by jingling chiller in his pocket, strutting in as if he was the local don all at the age of 6. He pushed to the counter, some change, and asked in his child-like native tongue, “Ek gutka halo ne…” (Give me a ‘gutka’, he actually named the brand). Both the shopkeeper and I stopped short. The next second surprisingly the shopkeeper said, “I won’t give it to you. Don’t buy those things ever again”. The child walked away disappointed. I appreciated the shopkeeper for his sensibilities & not thinking only about “selling”. The other day I saw a house-maid puffing out two ‘bidi’s (a raw un-filtered form of a cigarette) after the hurried lunch between the errands of two houses with the stubs thrown on the lane just beside the garden she sat in. She raged for not minding my own business when asked. Doing the dishes or washing clothes wouldn’t wash her yellow finger nails. Forgetting ‘some real action’ we are.

Take the above scenario. Combine it with reports malnutrition rate in India as 35.6%, of second hand smoking killing 600,000 people worldwide in a year (WHO), ignoring even the effects of pollution, untreated water consumption and appalling food situations and you have the perfect recipe for a deteriorating rural population. So after reading thus far, what would it take for you to stop one from buying another packet or from smoking? Tell me if you haven’t seen more of the working class women smoking. With gutka, they start at the very dawn, like a customary religious breakfast, to numb themselves out of a drone’s day ahead and leave their seemingly beautiful red trails of spit every 2 minutes everywhere, chewing aimlessly to work ignoring the burning, rash-cut tongues and ceaseless coughing. Else, they’ll pull in a mouth full and make shapes of smoke during their ride to work in a slow, chugging ‘chakda’ (the infamous seven seater that ends up with 15 humans smashed onto each other), while discussing animatedly with the rickshaw driver, national politics and business. The Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY) and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) conducted the survey among 5,300 people in the last 15 days inferring that maximum people wanted more graphic warnings on tobacco packets like the lung X-ray you may have seen on TV or better, the mouth cancer ones, to be effective from December 1. Will it create an impact on that woman or the kid? Of course, the revenue out of this industry is a strong counter opinion. But I guess health is universally accepted to be wealth isn’t it?

Well, moving on, on a much lighter note, living in the greener, the more beautiful outer parts of a city can also show you some sights not appealing to the normal eye. I mean, imagine what going to school all dressed up and forcefully motivated one chilly winter morning and sighting a mass public defecation event on the way could do to your day. The best part, you can’t stop and tell them to not do it at the very time. Plus, they have nowhere else to go. Clearly, 19 November, World Toilet Day, doesn’t hold much significance in their lives yet. A very queer phenomenon that I noticed: the entire village is divided into two (or three, including minors) ‘clans’ as participants of this grand event. The early riser clan; one that goes to work clean and the one seen during those avoid-the-window-seat rides to school. The minor clan is on display in the evenings, while the remaining, prefer the dark nights to get down to business. Of course, cattle, cats and dogs do not have preplanned appearance per se for they just do what they want when they want where they want. God forbid if you were unfortunate enough to have to walk by that road, you’d thank Almighty for not giving your olfactory senses the expertise of snouts. How does one make them realize that they’re only giving an open invitation to epidemics when all they’re worried about is where all they’ve to go and work today?

Well, the written reply to one of the Rajya Sabha questions did raise the point of National Rural Health Mission having raised bars on the augmentation of human resources and infrastructure in rural areas across the country that involves most aspects of the medical facilities. That is, definitely the ‘cure’ in place. But where is the ‘prevention’?

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