A question of decorum along the roadside

Published: 06th September 2012 12:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th September 2012 12:14 AM   |  A+A-

Next to spitting indiscriminately in public places, perhaps one of our most offensive habits is urinating in the open with utter disregard for others. Regrettably, it’s an all-too-common sight that we’ve come to accept with a sense of fatalistic resignation.

In school our teachers firmly discouraged us from spending a penny in the open; we were told in no uncertain terms that it was plain bad manners. They scrupulously practised what they preached — and ensured that we did too. Today, however, we witness a dramatic negation of what schools teach by way of acceptable behaviour. Watering our environs, to use a euphemism, appears to be the order of the day — apparently quite acceptable to all. No wonder school children too follow the example of their elders.

Perhaps nowhere is this despicable habit more evident than in Munnar — Kerala’s premier hill-resort and a popular tourist destination. One is daily treated to the sickening sight of domestic tourists alighting from vehicles to ease themselves, quite nonchalantly, on roadsides with scant consideration for passers-by. Most never even bother to go to a secluded or inconspicuous spot — which is the least they could do. This results in roadsides and pavements becoming stinking ‘public conveniences’. The situation is much the same elsewhere too. It’s relevant to mention here that one never sees foreign tourists resort to such indecorum which, of course, is unheard of and never tolerated abroad. In fact once I overheard two American tourists exchange some unflattering remarks about this egregious weakness of ours.

What then makes us display such a callous attitude towards so sensitive a matter of personal propriety? Obviously, it’s our lack of consideration for others coupled, no doubt, with our inherent indifference to keeping our surroundings clean. We brazenly tend to regard it as our birthright to foul up our environment at will and care two hoots for the sensibilities of others.

We do have rules banning this abominable practice but their non-implementation reflects our deep-rooted apathy to such fundamental matters as socially acceptable behaviour.

We need to sensitise and educate the general public that this deplorable habit is highly indecorous and creates health as well as sanitation problems. Equally important, it betrays a blatant insensitivity towards others besides being a blot on our culture. Indeed, it can only create a sense of revulsion in the minds of foreign tourists.

While we’re fond of aping whatever the West does, it’s surprising that we don’t follow their good example in this respect, preferring instead ‘To go public with our private affairs’ as a disgusted elder puts it.

All in all, this predominantly male failing, which blights our national image, requires to be tackled with all the resolve our civic authorities can muster. And, yes, we do urgently need a refresher or rather a crash course in good manners — as well as a radical change in our mindset.

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