First they came after Paan, but I didn’t chew…

If you’re a race conspiracist, perhaps this is just the latest insult to fall upon the brothers in arms in Dubai. Going after paan is just an indirect, more politically correct way for the ruling elite to cram desi’s into an out-of-sight, out-of-mind box -

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Be warned: Spitting here could get you deported.

We’re not talking just any kind of spit. In this case, it’s the red-tinted juice of a popular Asian leaf that’s causing the fuss as Dubai tries to buff the image of its less-posh districts.

The crackdown — announced this week amid a broader effort to stem behavior deemed offensive — has stirred an unusual Arab-Asian culture clash in a city where the friction is often between Western ways grating against conservative Gulf sensibilities.

…”It’s like telling an Italian not to have an espresso,” said Pakistani security guard Munir Ahmed.

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p>On the other hand, maybe paan spitting is just gross and Dubai’s officials really are trying to clean up the place. Though it runs against my usually libertarian sensitivities, I’m reminded of Lee Kuan Yew’s recipe for wealth in Singapore -

The difficult part was getting the people to change their habits so that they behaved more like first world citizens, not like third world citizens spitting and littering all over the place.

That was the difficult part. So, we had campaigns to do this, campaigns to do that. We said, “Look, if you don’t do this, you won’t get the jobs. You must make this place like the countries they came from. Then, they are comfortable. Then they’ll do business here. Then, you’ll have a job. Then, you’ll have homes, schools, hospitals, etc.” That’s a long process.

Indeed.

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31 thoughts on “First they came after Paan, but I didn’t chew…

  1. Deportation is harsh but hate, hate, hate this desi Kilroy was here. Love your paan to bits, but use a spittoon or something.

  2. …”It’s like telling an Italian not to have an espresso,” said Pakistani security guard Munir Ahmed.

    Not really, you can have the espresso; you just need to respect the space of others and not spit it out onto public buildings/walls, streets. This is an offensive habit and quite disrespecful to others imo. Deportation is a bit ridiculous as a response though; almost sounds like backdoor way to get rid of surplus labour.

  3. If this happened in a country such as India or the US, where there is at least a constitutional and legal respect and often cultural respect for heterogeneity I would be less suspicious of racism (or classism for that matter).

    However that red spit is disgusting. I would see it all the time in another first world “country” – Taiwan….thought it is was so disgusting and partially I’m sure b/c I didn’t grow up with it in India or the US (I don’t know any of my family members in India who chews this stuff let alone spits it out). And anyone who chews it, loses their teeth, and before they lose it it becomes completely discolored and you are faced with blackened, reddish grins. Have I used the word disgusting enough. Since this is supposedly common in South Asia, chewing and spitting this juice out anywhere, then I hope they pass a law in India to ban indiscriminate betal juice spitting….seriously do it in your home…don’t leave your mark on public property.

  4. Since this is supposedly common in South Asia, chewing and spitting this juice out anywhere, then I hope they pass a law in India to ban indiscriminate betal juice spitting….seriously do it in your home…don’t leave your mark on public property.

    Shouldn’t we have mechanisms to enforce the laws we already ignore before we start piling even more on?

  5. Shouldn’t we have mechanisms to enforce the laws we already ignore before we start piling even more on?

    I don’t know if there’s laws already that prevent spitting betal juice in India (or just public spitting…today walking to the metro in lovely DC, 2 people spit on the sidewalk near me – gross)…so I wish there was a law and enforcement of the law to prevent people spitting in public…and I wish, if I visit Taiwan again, that they pass a similar law over there. Oh and a public campaign on keeping the cities and the public spaces we live in clean wouldn’t hurt in the prevention of betal juice spitting.

  6. 6 · PS said

    Shouldn’t we have mechanisms to enforce the laws we already ignore before we start piling even more on? I don’t know if there’s laws already that prevent spitting betal juice in India (or just public spitting…today walking to the metro in lovely DC, 2 people spit on the sidewalk near me – gross)…so I wish there was a law and enforcement of the law to prevent people spitting in public…and I wish, if I visit Taiwan again, that they pass a similar law over there. Oh and a public campaign on keeping the cities and the public spaces we live in clean wouldn’t hurt in the prevention of betal juice spitting.

    Oh I wasn’t referring to laws on spitting. I mean laws on things ranging from traffic violations to littering to vandalism and all the other stuff that is supposed to maintain civic order. India’s law enforcement capabilities are rather weak and I don’t see much point in passing a law that won’t be enforced anyway.

    First so something about the unsafe traffic conditions. Then do something about public urination/defecation. Then maybe we can think about worrying about paan.

  7. …. but paan was always banned in Dubai – at least when I was there. Of course, a lot of people ignored the ban, but I don’t remember seeing too many stains around the place. There were a couple of spitting corners in the densely populated South Asian suburb of Al-Karama that looked like a scene out of CSI…

  8. First so something about the unsafe traffic conditions. Then do something about public urination/defecation. Then maybe we can think about worrying about paan.

    I see no reasons to pass laws and enforce them all at once. And as far as the public urination/defecation thing goes…I think that might be tricky when there are so many homeless people/impoverished people in such a densely populated country w/o a proper bathrooms. Make India richer will help everything. but paan spitting seems much easier for people to deal with and a public campaign would help – do it at home if you must but don’t mark your spots in public places.

  9. I see no reasons to pass laws and enforce them all at once.

    Pass yet another law like this and all you end up doing is giving the police one more avenue to solicit a bribe. You won’t even have to spit for them to bring you up for it if they’re hard up for cash.

  10. 4 · AV said

    I can see it being a problem in terms of public cleanliness, but how is it offensive?

    Splatter, this is really offensive, since given the weather when you are wearing sandals the last thing you want is to have splatter from pan ejaculate on your feet. To be fair people are apologetic on the whole (unless it happens to be a clerk in a state govt office who seem to regard it as their God-given right to spew wherever they want) when this happens but it is still quite offensive to do this in public imo.

  11. Conrad

    Sorry, I misread your earlier post. I thought you were talking about paan, with or without spitting.

  12. Too bad they have a ban on idols and similar depictions. A typically Indian solution I hear is to draw these god pictures–eswar,allah, jesus et al.–on walls and it seems to be effective.

  13. there are parts where those who chew cause similar problems. though their numbers are smaller. i went to high school with people who chewed, and it was really annoying how they’d spit in the waste bucket and foul it up (small waste bucket).

  14. PS:

    red spit is disgusting. I would see it all the time in another first world “country” – Taiwan.

    Chinese spit all the time. But why is the spit red? To show party loyalty? Taiwan? I can just see it now… Indians of different faiths and denominations color coding their spit. There’ll be the green wall and the orange wall, the red wall, the blue wall and there the multi-hued wall for the schizos.

  15. You cannot legislate morality, but you can legislate hygiene. Deportation is draconian and simply demonstrates the crass arrogance of Arab states when it concerns South Asians.

  16. But why is the spit red?

    That made me giggle…it must be the color that is produced when chewing that nut…nothing to do with party politics. Yes, if spit color were to signify party or religious poltics in India, we’d be in for a rainbow of spitting colors wouldn’t we? When I was in Taiwan, one American hadn’t any understanding of what the red juice was and when she realized she confessed to me that she thought it was menstruating dogs (b/c they had a problem of dogs running wild and not being neutured)…that was just weird.

  17. demonstrates the crass arrogance of Arab states when it concerns South Asians

    When the labor is cheap, they like other societies will exploit and take advantage of people that need to make a living. There was this great blog written by mid easterner that derided these govts on the working conditions of their immigrants…but I can’t remember the name of it. I can’t wait for the day, when South Asians don’t have to choose to go to the gulf to make a living…when our own countries can support the lives of their citizens.

  18. I remember in Calcutta in apartment complexes to control this each staircases corner they had Ganesh’s idol installed which helped in keeping the buildings clean

  19. razib sez

    i went to high school with people who chewed, and it was really annoying how they’d spit in the waste bucket and foul it up (small waste bucket).

    a colleague-friend and go on road trips together and we share hotel rooms. he chews and sometimes spits/sprays in the toilet. by the time we leave, the toilet looks so vile that anyone who is not in the know would just gag upon walking in. we make it a point ot leave a big tip for the cleaning staff. if anyone who’s suffered on our account reads this – please accept our humble apologee. we’re good guys. really. on the positive side, arent you glad the indian among the two of us doesnt spray betel joos ;-)

    PS sez

    she thought it was menstruating dogs

    LOL!!11!one!!

  20. You cannot legislate morality

    that’s actually not true. i wish people would stop repeating that, as a lot of legislation has to do with morality (e.g., laws against fraud, libel, murder, rape, etc.).

  21. 22 · razib said

    that’s actually not true. i wish people would stop repeating that, as a lot of legislation has to do with morality (e.g., laws against fraud, libel, murder, rape, etc.).

    I agree alot of legislation does have to do with morality like bigamy laws. Although, I think laws against fraud, murder and rape have valid public policy reasons in addition to moral underpinnings. Libel is not a criminal offense. This one is neither about morals or public policy.

    “On the other hand, maybe paan spitting is just gross and Dubai’s officials really are trying to clean up the place.”

    Why not punish everyone spitting paan? The punishment is deportation not a civil fine or criminal penalty. Citizens who spit paan will not be punished. If their concern was cutting down on paan spitting then punish everyone. It’s fairly obvious that they are targeting a particular group not a racial conspiracy. I’m fairly certain that Dubai has a law punishing spitting or public urination or indecency with a fine.

  22. As a person upon whom paan has been accidentally spat from the second floor balcony of a Delhi hospital, I have precious little sympathy for paan chewers. I can’t imagine what sort of laws could be passed to deter that kind of lack of … I don’t even know what to call it. Manners? Decency? Civic sense? Intelligence?

  23. It’s like telling an Italian not to have an espresso,” said Pakistani security guard Munir Ahmed

    No it is not. Italians don’t go around spitting their espresso all over the place.

    maybe paan spitting is just gross

    You bet it is. On several occasions I have come to blows over drivers who spit out of their car windows or if they are on bikes, over their shoulders without bothering to look behind.

    People who use the world as their spittoon should be shot.

  24. 13 · AV said

    Conrad Sorry, I misread your earlier post. I thought you were talking about paan, with or without spitting.

    No problem, actually I really like paan. I think it is a great alternative to dessert after a massive meal. Usually when I go to my friends’ houses in Lucknow I am too stuffed after the main course; and with the spicy food, having some paan is a great way to clear the mouth while chomping on something sweet. I tend to prefer the edible variety though, which doesn’t require spitting. There might be some etiquette involved though I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly what it would be. Neverthelss we don’t tend to chew paan in front of the older generation or in front of the women of the household where we are guests, but this is probably considered old fashioned these days.

    Spitting isn’t really a problem in the countryside and small town; it is in the cities where lack of space and crowding make it more of a nuisance.

  25. just wondering how widespread paan usage is among south asians?

    i know i have tons of male relatives working as laborers there, and from where we are from (pakistan’s potohar region), paan is not very popular. on my visits there, what i was struck by was how their particular style of dress, the salwar kameez, seemed to identify them to others, particularly those that looked down on them (arabs and professional class south asians)…. my own father, a mild mannered working professional in canada, was kicked out of a restaurant for wearing one.

  26. Subcontinent=whitewashed walls with crimson stains.

    I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if Major League Baseball players in the US were to take a to Paan rather than tobacco…in high-definition…hmmm…

  27. 25 · vk said

    On several occasions I have come to blows over drivers who spit out of their car windows or if they are on bikes, over their shoulders without bothering to look behind.

    I know exactly what you mean–except for the coming to blows part. This is what happened to me. If ever there was a time I wanted to borrow Vinod’s gun (I’m assuming he has one, since he’s a happy NRA member).

    Spitting is so disgusting. I don’t know why people feel entitled to do it in public. shudder

  28. Spitting in public is gross, whether it be paan or something else. The color of paan merely makes it stand out more.