In India, the Gods Are Watching You Pee in Public

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Photo: Meena Kadri/flickr

According to Atlantic contributor Ranjani Iyer Mohanty, images of Hindu deities have been appearing on public walls in her Delhi neighborhood recently, and they’re not simply part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to advance hindutva, or Hindu nationalism. Mohanty reports that the tiles serve a much more hygienic purpose: to prevent guys from peeing on walls.

This is apparently a huge issue in India, where about half of households don’t have a toilet. The worst offenders, unsurprisingly, are men, who don’t even try to hide what they’re doing in the middle of busy streets. When a slew of other solutions didn’t work, the country tried a new one:

That’s where the god tiles come in. I found out that my local residents’ association was responsible for installing the tiles in our neighborhood, in the hopes that people would refrain from peeing on a picture of a god or within the god’s benevolent but omniscient gaze. It’s an ingenious way to keep the roads—or at least that particular stretch of road—free of pee. The tiles are durable, inexpensive, difficult to steal, and easy to clean and install. The psychology behind why they work is complex. It could be a combination of fearing the wrath of God (especially when one’s pants are down, or even just open) and wanting to seem RC (religiously correct).

The strategy is getting mixed reviews, with some saying they work miracles and others remaining doubtful. At the very least, as Mohanty points out, the tiles spruce up otherwise dull walls. No word yet on whether angry New Atheists will take this as a sign that they should start unzipping in public.

In India, the Gods Watch You Pee in Public