This article gives you 3 simple ways to safeguard your premises from Covid spread by spitting. If we all did enough to ban spitting in apartments, we could put in place measures that actually eradicate the habit in our communities over the coming year. Let’s play our part to #StopIndiaSpitting!
Let me start with a story from 2009. My daughter was bouncing her basketball on her way back to our apartment block. She felt something wet on her hand and to her horror, realised that she had bounced her ball on a blob of spit, difficult to spot in the fading light. It was a trigger that has since got me involved with this unfortunate habit our country has tolerated for generations. People cringe whenever I’ve told this story over the years, but the year 2020 brings a completely different reaction. It is not just revulsion but horror as well, because Covid-19 is now in our midst. This is no longer just dirty, dreadful, distasteful and disgusting; it’s downright dangerous too!
I hope that this article will give you simple ways to ensure that you or your family will never have similar personal stories, though the chance of a recurrence today is no less than it was 11 years ago, with nothing really changing on the ground. But a little bit of context first, as more and more communities join hands with the #StopIndiaSpitting movement to ban spitting in apartments and residential communities.
Watch from your balcony; you will see cases of spitting (or even hear them!) – a maid wearing a mask which is pulled aside to spit. Now here’s the irony. She is wearing a mask to keep away Covid. The fact that she spits tells you that she has no clue about the link between spitting and Covid. You and I know that, and well, that places a responsibility on us to explain to those who do not. All around us are habitual spitters – the gardener spitting on the lawn where later our children/elders will sit, the grocery/food delivery boy spitting in the car park or even a resident spitting from the balcony, staircase or shaft – all increasing the chance of Covid reaching our loved ones. I seek pardon for these unpleasant descriptions but we cannot bring about the change by denying the problem exists or turning the other way, as most do. Let’s lay the dirty linen out to help us figure out ways to make our apartment communities spotlessly clean.
We’ve known of apartments in the past sending reminders post-renovation to ensure no spitting happens on freshly painted walls. A justified message yes, but how many today have sent out reminders to ban spitting in apartments, given its role in Covid spread? None we hear of, so let’s sound the alarm while Covid is in our midst. Let’s grab the opportunity inadvertently provided by Covid, to put in measures in our apartments that ease this habit out once and for all.
3 SIMPLE STEPS TO BAN SPITTING IN APARTMENTS
It doesn’t help that advisories with Covid preventive lists only mention masks, distancing and hand hygiene. People follow these 3, but pull masks aside to spit. And since you can’t keep mosquitoes out of a room with 3 windows closed and a 4th open, let’s ensure we add this fourth aspect of No-spitting to our critical lists.
1. Put up simple signs
Do not underestimate the power of a simple sign prominently placed at the entrance to your apartment, where every person entering the premises is forced to see it. Remember many are not aware of the link with corona. A sign saying:
No spitting please. Spitting spreads corona makes this connection clear. It is a reminder and deterrent if they already knew it. Premises with this sign are reporting less incidents of spitting since such signs went up. That’s a simple immediate step to take (and incidentally just ‘Do not spit’ is not effective as words linking covid; likewise, just text is not as effective as with an added visual). Multilingual signs help too; you can access the sign in 13 different languages here. Or choose ones with interesting images that get attention, many in the same drive.
Do go beyond your building and share a sign with the local shop or cart vendor. Explain to them that spitting is spreading corona and this sign will help to ban spitting in apartments & residential communities; they do welcome it. On my very first visit out during the lockdown, I was horrified when the shop boy spat right at the entrance of the shop. I explained why he should not spit and put up a sign the very next day. Seven months later, the sign is still there – and the owner proudly tells me that none of his staff spits any more, but use the toilet instead. Simple sign, simple measure, high impact.
2. HAVE CONVERSATIONS, incident-based or pre-emptive
Add on with the next level of awareness – it is very important to have conversations with those who spit about why they should not. Explain to all building staff and get residents to explain too. Here are the reasons NOT to quote even if they are true: dirty habit, bad manners, dirties the wall, punishable, etc. Each of these is true but will they care? No, the game-changer is to tell them that spitting spreads Covid. That will make them listen! They will not stop overnight or maybe for a few months, but they are now aware and that’s the first critical step. Once Covid is done, we can shift to the swacch platform of cleaner living spaces and pride in our cities.
The next time you see someone spitting on the road, here’s what you can do. Don’t shriek (which is still better than turning the other way as 55% of our survey respondents confessed to doing pre-Covid). A violent reaction will make them realise that what they did is not acceptable – watch this video with Akshay Kumar making a strong point when a passerby spits. But there’s a better formula that works perfectly when someone spits. I ask why are you wearing a mask? They look confused, because that is a dumb question. I say: I know you don’t want to get corona? Then what you did just now, spitting, will ensure corona spreads faster. Their eyes open wide because this is news to them. The seeds of habit change have been planted and there is now a higher chance they will hesitate to spit anywhere and everywhere.
Conversations can be incident-based as above, but also pre-emptive. Speak to your maid, driver, guard, vendor, or even family/neighbours who may spit. Don’t wait for them to be caught in the act, instead explain ahead how this habit can spread Covid. Understand how communication plays a vital role in society management by reading this blog.
3. Use and share resources on the spitting habit
How do you make a hush-hush subject talked about? Share our interesting resources by way of signs, posters, cartoons, videos, influencer/celebrity appeals, over 60 of them all in one place and collated from across the country. Enjoy them and make this a subject to discuss! From a Mumbai knee surgeon singing a spoof to the 1961 Junglee song, to a Bengali cartoonist doing a work of art of 20 whole pages based on MIT research scholars, we have it all, do check these out from the link above. We’re looking to keep building this library, so you could add on with Punjabi rap or Bharatanatyam or any form of art, music, dance that draws attention to this topic! RWAs, schools, hospitals, NGOs, community radio collaborators are all collaborating. So do connect us with anyone interested to #StopIndiaSpitting.
This is all part of the #StopIndiaSpitting campaign kicked off by Beautiful Bharat (better known as Beautiful Bengaluru) in March 2020 with a petition to the Prime Minister that helped create awareness on this gap in Covid control. Spitting is now punishable, but the massive awareness building exercise continues as we network across sectors and cities through the newly-formed Alliance to StopIndiaSpitting. You are now also a partner in this journey, so together let us make Covid a turning point for spitting in India!
ABOUT THE AUTHOUR
Odette Katrak is an Environment & Sustainability changemaker and Co-founder of Beautiful Bengaluru. She is championing the StopIndiaSpitting movement. Connect on firstname.lastname@example.org