Sunday, July 17, 2005

To Be(g) or Not to Be(g)

The couple boarded the train. He had an electric guitar and a microphone and she was carrying a purse that would have aroused envy in most of the passengers. As the train left the platform, he started singing and she joined him. After a song, she went around asking for alms. When some people gave a rupee and she smirked at them, others hurried gave more.

A study carried out by an eminent newspaper says that Mumbai has beggars who ahem! earn an average of a thousand bucks a day. One such fellow has a family of four and they have forty thousand rupees in the bank, two flats in Mumbai's suburbs, a cell phone and now plan to buy a car, besides carrying on with the family business of begging.

I think the first step towards walking out on the street and begging people for money is the toughest. You have to chew your pride to do it. You have to wallow in self-pity till you can convince people around you that you need to be pitied. I get embarrassed asking my friends for a loan of money when I run short, and I wonder what it must be for sometime who’s asking you to give your money to him forever.

I don't know the specific circumstances that force certain people into begging, but I think it’s got a lot to do with character. On the same train, I have seen one blind man begging and another selling incense sticks. On the same train, I have seen one old man begging and a woman older than him selling combs and clips. I hate it when some young fellow comes and begs for money when a hard day's labour could have got him not just money, but pride as well.

The whole idea of begging disturbs me. I see dozens of beggars everyday and I cannot decide whom to give money to and whom not to.

In Delhi, I used to pass by a temple on my way back from college and there used to be a cripple. My good friend D and I fondly remember that he called us 'Ma'. Often I used to save food from my lunch for him. He wouldn't ask for money. He would be only too happy to eat the food. D was rather fond of him and referred to him as her son. That didn't seem so bad, because he used to sit all by himself and he was exactly begging anyone for anything.

Somehow, I hate this commercialized begging that I encounter everyday. It’s a new morning, the sunshine, and the breeze. Just when you think, nothing could go wrong, you hear 'Bhagwan ke naam se de de Baba' and it jolts you back to reality. We are the 10th largest country in the world in terms of GDP, and the beggars seem to be getting richer, but they won't stop begging. Call it circulation of currency?


stiletto said...

*sniff* *sniff* waaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh

you reminded me of my neither-flesh-nor-blood!! ;)

stiletto said...

have you read rohinton mistry's a fine balance? pretty depressing stuff, yet interesting read - stuff that stays with for days. recommended if not read.

(what was the other one? umm family matters - didn't like it that much - slacked off in the second half)