This is a story of the great Indian spitter. I had the fortune to meet him, on a fine afternoon on the platforms of a moderately crowded railway platform. And I say moderately crowded, because there was actual breathable space between two people; you could walk a certain direction, without relying on the crowd to carry you. Anyone who has ever been on a crowded Indian railway platform can appreciate this sentiment, of being able to breathe in fresh air, without indirectly sniffing someone else’s armpit.
So, now that I have established that the platform was moderately crowded, the subject of my observation was casually leaning over a shaky bench, that may have seen better years. His lips were moving in rhythmic motion that a person adapts, when they are chewing betel leaves (paan). And I know it was a betel leaf that he was chewing, because this lips were stained in the same flaky red colour as that of the bench he was sitting in. The same bench that rattled on a windy day, shook when you sat on it, and was probably so old that the station was built around it.
The great Indian spitter had been chewing his paan, continuously now, his eyes focused somewhere far, his eyes glazed oblivious to fact that many people have walked past him. After a while he made these slurping noises, when he gathered all the loose bits of paan hanging and slobbering around his mouth, and chewed them for a last time as he prepared for the grand finale.
He put two of his fingers in front of his mouth and did what he does best; he spat. And what happened next was the reason I decided to document this incident. Because even though I am thoroughly disgusted by this entire culture of spitting, at that moment I couldn’t deny that there was a certain beauty to it. A set of skills were definitely required to do it, with the same ease he had done it. He seemed to have mastered the art.
The remaining of the paan that had not coated his teeth or mouth, flew from between the two fingers that he kept vertically on his lips. The red coloured liquid made a parabola as they landed right in the space between where the platform ended and the train bogie began. It was a gap of hardly few inches. With a distance of approximately six feet, while casually leaning back on the bench, he had managed to land it directly between the platform and the train, without staining either of them.
I was celebrating the ‘goal’ internally, when I realized that I was obsessing over a spit of a complete stranger who was probably destroying the government property. Any Indian knows, how revolting the act of chewing and spitting paan is. Painting the sidewalks and corner walls of the city with it, until over the years they have turned into a brownish red colour, and you can never tell that these walls were white once.
Even though my stand on chewing and spitting betel leaves has not changed, on that sweltering hot afternoon, as I gazed over this Indian spitter, I couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty of it all, and for a second be invested in where his spit landed. And not to mention the small victory dance I had in my head when it landed in the black abyss, to reunited with thousand of similar stains which were never washed down.