Ranjani Iyer Mohanty, a writer, editor, and commentator for The Atlantic based in India, recently noticed something interesting while in the Indian capital New Delhi -- ceramic tiles with pictures of Hindu Gods lining the walls.
“Why, I wondered, were these god tiles there? Perhaps they were intended to beautify; placed about three feet apart, they certainly brightened up the otherwise nondescript walls. Or maybe they were inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent election and the corresponding swell of Hindu pride,” he writes.
He was amazed as well as amused to learn, however, that the tiles were there to dissuade people from peeing against the walls.
Fines, official notices, public shaming, even spraying the culprits with water cannons has failed to discourage people from relieving themselves publicly.
“Caught on Harrington Road, this is not a new trick but caught my attention. As an atheist, I think more about the concept of God now. I have wondered how human beings started believing in God, why do we need them? I am still dealing with those thoughts. But in the meanwhile this sighting helped me realize at least one use of God. Or at least how man/woman-kind use God?” wrote a blogger in 2010.
Here are the sights that made him think:
The act of public urination is unsightly, unhygienic and just wrong. But it is also unavoidable in countries where many don’t have access to sanitary toilets or awareness. Even in the United States it is not an uncommon sight; even though public peeing risks trouble for indecent exposure or disorderly conduct.
In India, with thousands of people living on the streets, public peeing seems to be an unavoidable evil. The gods, whether they are smiling down or looking fiercely at the offenders, will dissuade people and may even get them to drum up smarter ways of doing the deed.
It is, after all, not an urge anyone can easily resist -- is it?