01 August, 2006

Madam... Sir... Please

Sometimes we have parties, with our team and colleagues, after our busy day of work. Mostly such parties happen on a Friday evening or when a colleague leaves, or sometime just to celebrate the birthdays. Normally, we have a social chat. Many times, my colleagues (British) discuss about our country and places interest to visit in India, with me. The topics used to be about the hot sunny climate, population, Taj Mahal, Goa, Temples of South India, other places of interest to visit and etc. Once a colleague of mine, asked me the translation for a swear word in English. I expressed my ignorance, and wanted to know why he wanted to know the exact hindi translation for such a phrase in English. He said that he is irritated by the beggars in India when he is on Holiday, and wanted to tell them the next time when he goes on tour. I felt very bad, thinking of the situation that prevails in our place.

We do have growing millionaires and as well as the beggars in our country. During my visit to Chennai last month, I saw that begging has increased a lot in our place. There are more beggars than last year. It has slowly started as an Industry. I have heard that there are thugs, who force young children to beg in big cities. The most common sight in Chennai was young mothers with toddlers in their hand and begging in traffic signals. It is really pathetic to see them. They are quite healthy, but harm the infant and expose the child to the pollution and risk their life too. They are a hazard for the traffic and I do not find any government taking action on this.

There are beggars in Chennai, who are in finance business. A lady beggar who crawls in Saidapet Railway Station is famous for her finance lendings.

During my visit to Tiruchanur temple, I was shocked to see the priest giving the ‘Perumal theertham’ (holy water) in one hand and stretching another hand with money inside. The priest with ‘Chadari’ (the deity’s crown) also did the same. Then a group of temple staff approached me and said politely to go and accept prasadams. When I started going towards the prasadam queue, they openly admitted that they are temple staff and asked whether I could help them with money. If that was inside the temple, I came across a dozen of beggars outside the temple who were constantly following me wherever I walked in the street without allowing me to have a tender coconut. I was irritated by their cries, and got back into my bus. I realised why my British colleague wanted to swear at them.

India is not that poor. We have wonderful resources, huge wealth. The only problem is it is not equally distributed. Many beggars are healthy. They are physically sound. If they are not encouraged they may stop begging. Some educated people, keep it a routine to drop alms to beggars who are healthy. I have seen this in public. Irrespective of their abilities are we not supposed to discourage them? In my life time in India, I would have spoken to atleast hundreds of beggars and discouraged them. Whenever there was a lady with a child in front of my house, I have talked to her and said that we are against helping beggars, and she should go forward to take up work. I have seen few ladies stopping begging at least in our street. Some of them, nod their head and start after few houses. Where does the problem lie? It is a big network.

There are beggars quoting some religious functions to happen and beg. Just because they show faith in certain gods, they beg with a receipt book, saying that they want to celebrate a festival. They come in groups to make us believe. For example, for a festival that is likely to happen in some corner place(mostly unknown) they will be begging in another district.

On one evening thinking about this while travelling in the local suburban train, I got down at Egmore railway station. I was surprised at a scene. A blind lady was settling down on the stair cases. She was spreading lots of small items, and children toys. It was so beautiful to see her spreading the sheet, and displaying the articles. By the way she was working, nobody will believe that she was blind. While spreading the articles, another blind man who had already settled with his small sell outs, was enquiring about the welfare of this lady. I stood there to watch her doing the business. Within minutes she was ready for her sale and started selling out. She was neatly dressed and so all the other blind people. Whenever they were free, they were involved in talking about their other blind friends and their groups and their future meetings. It was a pleasure to watch them selling, handling cash and returning back the exact balance to the customers.

These people who are really disabled, still want to live with principles. If they want they can switch over to begging. But I could not leave that place, without appreciating their thoughts and their will to survive in a prestigious way.

I will be glad if anybody would let me know of any organisations, who talk with beggars and rehabilitate them to live on their own. I am looking forward to help such organisations.


Shankari said...

So true, it irritates me when I see young and strong adults begging when they have a whole lot of options. I am planning on helping an orphanage close to my house in salem. let me know if you are interested and I will send you more info. One of the kids who grew up there is planning to take his IAS exams, Another wants to join engineering etc

Jeevan said...

The first point for increased beggars was laziness. I too realize that begging have increased, especially for children’s who beg on the traffic are risking their life. The Govt should control this and help them to recover form begging and give them any job and education for the children’s. In this machine world, every work was involved with machine, even for cleaning the drainage, so the unemployed of poor starts begging for their one-way food.

Ram Viswanathan said...

Popular intersections in Chennai are now on-demand with the beggers.. one can often see 'territorial' discussion amongst beggers at these intersections..

IBNLive.com ran several stories on how begger's mafia drug and maim children for their devious end.. all with the active connivance of some bad elements in the medical profession..

The challenge is India is, there doesn't seem to be a social awareness on this issue.. and it is kind of'taken for granted'..

Raji said...

Sad state of affairs really..

Begging will stop if citizens like us resolve never to give them coins. There are various other ways to do charity.

This social problem is prevelant not just in India. In the so called developed country where I live, where unemployed are given dole, I find people begging on the railway & bus stations and outside supermarkets.

Kudos to you and Shankari .. Bless your golden hearts!

Hiren said...

Noble thought. There are some self styled intellectuals who thinks that one should never give anything to beggers and they should be made to work. While that maybe desirable, whos knows what their real circumstances are. A little bit of giving hurts nobody.

Pavithra said...

Good thoughts !!
I wanted to write a post on that.
I too strongly beleive that begging should be discouraged.

But, as you pointed out..things won't change in a day. It needs a strong will power to eliminate begging completely.

@Hiren, there are deserted old men and women who can't even walk. Helping them is fine..but still there should be a better way like taking them to some welfare organizations than leave them on the streets. But, alms to fit/lazy people should be strictly avoided.

Ravi said...

Most beggars these days find begging as an easy means of earning - nothing else. I can understand old, disabled people resorting to begging but what about those abled ones - that too young people? Its even more pathetic to see children following footsteps of other beggars.

Recently I saw a lame man near Teynampet signal. The same evening I saw in Adyar signal. I wondered if in true sense, as you said, begging profession is a network!!

I strongly recommend your suggestion of discouraging begging. Its no more "punyam" or whatever. I don't know if its true but I read in a forwarded article that a beggar in Bombay has shares in his name!!

The last adam said...

Good post!!....I think the problem of begging is a problem of demand and supply..it runs deep into the psyche of our people..I found some interesting thoughts related to this topic...


Balaji S Rajan said...

Shankari - So nice of you for helping an orphanage. Very glad to hear about the progress of those children. I am already associated with few charitable works and constantly helping an orphanage. I am looking forward for some organisation who works in rehabilitating beggars.

Jeevan - Yes you are right. The government should control this. Even in developed countries we have beggars. But it is very rare. Begging is not the immediate source for food. Mechanisation has to happen. We are in the fast world and we should not be depending on manual workers for digging drainage. It takes long time than the machines. At the same time there are other works, which they can concentrate. Governments should do something for them and try to eradicate poverty.

Ram - Yes... I was disturbed by beggars in popular intersection. I was really concerned about those young ones who are exposed to the heat and pollution. As you said, social awareness should improve.

Raji - Thanks for your comments. True I agree there is begging in developed countries too. I have been constantly approaced by youths for 20p many times in this country. But, the percentage is higher in our country.

Hiren - I agree with you. Thanks for your comments. I could not digest the fact, that certain young people, with no disabilities get into begging, for easy money.
Will it not give a wrong signal if we encourage them?

Balaji S Rajan said...

Pavithra - Thanks for your comments. As you said alms to physically fit should be discouraged.

Ravi - You are right. I have seen beggars taking a huge collection when they go home at the end of the day. For sometime I used to work late hours and return home. I have observed the beggars counting their collection. Manytimes I have noticed that they were having more money on hand, than what I had for the whole month to spend. As I had quoted, there are few beggars whom I knew, used to give loans for others for higher rate of interest.

Last adam - Thank you for your link. Yes it is useful.

Barbienan said...

@yeah u r right..the most pathetic thing i found was in mambalam railway station a brahman guy chanting vedas for begging :-(. In hungary the government gives a place to stay and some aid but the beggers dont go there as their things gets stolen..

Balaji S Rajan said...

barbienan - It is pathetic to see them begging. Hence it made me to put this post. Especially it hurts us when we do not see so many beggars in these part of the world when compared home.