Thursday, October 13, 2011

Changing habits

Has anyone noticed that very few people chew betel anymore? The habit was ubiquitous amongst the working classes: masons, plumbers, drivers, labourers and domestic servants would been seen chewing and spewing long streams of bright red sputum.

One had to be careful walking around public markets to avoid stepping in spittle or being inadvertently hit by a passing stream.

The habit of smoking beedis, a cheap type of cigarette also seems to be near extinct.

There was a public campaign to stop the chewing of betel (it causes cancer), so perhaps that has worked, or it may simply have become unfashionable. People have become richer so they no longer want to have a habit that is associated with the lower classes? The same fate may have befallen the beedi, which despite being cheaper than cigarettes is now very rarely seen.

Indeed given the price of blasted things, I sometimes wonder how anyone can afford to smoke.

Changes in taste have claimed other victims, notably the pipe. I hate smoking but if one must smoke, the pipe is the way to go, the fragrance of a pipe is pleasant, (that from a hookah pipe, most deliciously so) and the whole process has a certain old world charm about it.

The cigar, the other form of tobacco that has a certain 'cachet' does not seem to have been affected by changes in taste, it may in fact have benefited, although I am not quite certain of this.


Thameera said...

Today morning I saw the betel spit marks in the Matara bus stand and thought to myself 'people still haven't got rid of this stupid habit'.
Outside Colombo, the habit still exists I think.

Cadence said...

Strange you should write about this dying habit. My domestic chews betel daily and uses up approx 100/- a week.

My parent's gardener who has been with us since my grandfather's time both chews betel and smokes beedi. The latter very sparingly though.

Both of them are former estate labourers who've given up on low wage,uncertain pay and opted to find their own work and earn a living. I like them both for their honesty and genuine interest in the work they do. Particularly my parent's gardener who now pops in at our place and does a bit of sprucing up and all it takes is a phone call the evening before.

Jack Point said...

Thanks for that comment Thameera, as you say perhaps the habit is more common in the outstations.

Cadence, I have noticed that the habit seems more common amongst estate labourers, who are amongst the poorest.

I have not encountered a domestic servant who chews betel in a very long time, have you noticed this amongst a lot of others as well?

Cadence said...

A former domestic my parents had did chew betel, she was from an estate too. But comparatively I guess it's not very common, judging by the fact that the domestics most of my friends have don't chew betel. For some though it is an occasional thing. The current daily help employed by my parents has lived and grown up in CMB. She chews betel when offered (by the gardener) and sometimes I've noticed she brings over leftovers after they've all gone on a trip or pilgrimage.

santhoshi said...

The maid at my mums house chews beetle a lot. She is middle aged. I think the generation now has given up the habit.

sbarrkum said...

I seem to have noticed differently. The younger generation (25 to 35 years) seem to have had a increase in Betel chewing. In the same socio economic class the 40 to 55 year olds seem less likely to chew betel.

I travel by bus and it seems bus drivers, conductors, three wheeler drivers and construction workers all chew betel specially if they are younger.

Jack Point said...

Come to think of it I have noticed a couple of bus drivers, but not as many, but I don't travel very frequently by bus. Thanks for input, Sbarrkum.