Showing posts with label Beggars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beggars. Show all posts

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The lesser known Heroes [105/365]

source: Bangalore Mirror
While humanity will continue to debate if size does matter, I've always believed that disability doesn't matter.
I've been fortunate to interact and work with several people who were physically or mentally challenged. Besides the fact that we tend to forget how we take a lot of things for granted, physically challenged individuals are exceptionally abled.

They may not have the same faculties that we have, but they do have the same aspirations as we do. And most times, their challenges and the lessons that life in a cruel world has taught them, they are stronger willed than most able-bodied people I know. Perhaps we write them off too soon. Perhaps we kiddie spoon them too often.
While serving with NGOs like Freedom Foundation and Spastics Society, I've realized that we need to treat them with dignity and respect. They really don't need a freebie. They won't ask you for a concession or a quota.

When I see people with a disability begging on the streets and at traffic stops, it baffles me. I wonder why we allow them to live the easy life. With the kind of potential that a differently abled individual could bring to our world, I wonder why we would encourage any disabled individual to beg ever.

Case in point, 23 year old visually challenged student Poonam Vaidya. Reading her story in 'The Sunday Read' within The Bangalore Mirror gave me a tinkling feeling. I felt good reading it. (Read the inspiring story here)
One of the best lines, and one that I've always believed in, is when she says - '...A disability is only a disability if you think it disables you. A disability only prevents you from doing something in the way other people do it. It doesn't disable you, at least that's what I think.'
Living as a visually challenged person can be cruel in a world of colors. But Poonam set her goals, knew her limitations, explored her possibilities, stretched her abilities, and conquered her summit.
It is people like this that proves that there is hope in this world.

A big standing ovation to the lesser known heroes of this world: Bravo, Poonam!

Recommended Read:
Poonam's blog

Friday, March 30, 2012

By the side [89/365]

more Abled than most of us
I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be "happy." I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter and to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
- Leo C. Rosten

I am not known to be charitable.
Correction: I fail to melt when I see a person begging, just by virtue of a handicap.
A common sight at an Indian traffic, you'd be surprised that many of them would have much more in the bank than you'd believe. Heck they are richer than most of us combined. But of course, I've told you all this before.

Today, commuting to work, I saw a person working away at a pedestrian footpath near a very busy intersection. No, he wasn't begging. He wasn't looking for compassion. He was earning his bread though.
Severely crippled, he was painting. I paused by the side, watched him. Curiously. And so did a lot of other people. Many was bewildered. Some thought he was just trying to seek attention. Surely he was. But he didn't want your money for free. Buy one of his sketches. And those sketches weren't childish amateurish scribbles and doodles, but colorful abstracts with powerful brush strokes. I was amazed and I am pretty sure a lot of passers by were too.
Some did buy his paintings. But I didn't. I procrastinated. I erred. I assumed that he is going to be there the next time I pass by and figured I could buy it then.

I did look for the 'anonymous painter' the next day, but he was gone. No sign of him. I saw him for exactly two days. I wondered what happened. I theorized that the merchants and the cops patrolling the busy CBD didn't like him. He was bad for their image. What will the phirens think? Nothing worse than seeing a crippled man trying to make an honest living. Forget the dilapidated roads, uneven footpaths, overflowing sewers and prostitutes plying their trade under the nose hairs of the cops in the CBD.
I asked one of the merchants and he confirmed my fears. The cops did come and haul him off. He probably has been shunted away from our sanitized eyes into poverty.
But this is not new.

A couple of years ago, there used to be a lady. She was truly homeless. She lived on a footpath about 3 km away from my home. As I came to see her everyday, I began to buy lunch for her. Everyday. She might have been at least 70. She definitely had better days in her past since she had a toe ring. Her worldly possessions were a battered and torn suitcase, some clothes, two mattresses, an umbrella and two stray dogs. I'd see her sitting at exactly the same spot through the day, and when the rains came, the three of them would get under the umbrella. She'd gradually recognize me and smile and fold her hands in thanks when I'd give her the packet of food. This arrangement went on for a few weeks. I remember praying for her and hoping that she sees better days ahead. I was helpless. I wanted to do something. I wanted to bring her home. But wasn't sure how I could take care of her. I was a struggling bachelor then.
Two days before Christmas, with a packet of food for her, I came to the spot where she was for the last 20 years. But she was gone. Her pets were there. They were 'searching' for her. I asked around. They told me that a group of cops hauled her off a few hours ago. I wondered where.
I hope it was to a cozy place, because her belongings were left behind. It was removed a day or two later. And the footpath sanitized.
I did ask the people around. Some long time residents told me that she used to be a wealthy lady who was thrown out of her house and her wealth by her ruthless son. With no where and no one to go to, she stayed on the footpath outside her former home.

Four years on, I still think of her every time I pass the spot.
I hope she is doing better wherever she is.

We err when we procrastinate. I wish I'd bought the painting of that crippled painter when I still had a chance. I wish I'd brought that lady home when I still could.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Will Beg for Wealth

A common sight at any traffic light stop worth its salt, as soon as the lights turn red you'll find an army of beggars, slick salesmen selling the latest fad toy and a couple of eunuchs.

Squeezing between cars, dodging the 2 and 3 wheelers that grind to a halt, they knock on tinted glasses peering inside, tug at your trousers and tap on your hands.
All begging you for your attention and a few coins.

What bothers me is how we treat these people.
Of the 14 years that I have been in India, I have seen many many beggars. The number of beggars seem to  have exploded in the recent weeks! Victims of Inflation? I don't think so.
Because they hardly look like the kind of people who would have too much to worry about. Their work hours are highly flexible, they can call in sick and if they do then they get more money, they take their comfort breaks whenever they please and they don't have to bother about any promotions. They get to travel and if they look miserable and horrible, then thats a bonus.

They don't need to worry about unwanted pregnancies because having a miserable looking child tightly hugged in their arms is an added advantage. I wonder where most of them get the feeding bottle that has what appears to be half filled (always) with milk.

Skills? They need to have very minimal verbal skills but excellent mind reading capabilities.
Because I've noticed that in the first 5 seconds that they look at you, they will figure out if you are the gullible type who will fall for their 'misery' and fish for a coin out of your pocket or if you are the hard hearted creature that is not worth their pitch.
I am the second type. Although I am not hard hearted, I shake my heart in the general direction of the individual and they take the cue. Some are persistent and I've noticed that this happens only if there is a female member present with me. Excellent psychological profiling, I must admit.

However, I do notice them. As a habit, I enjoy reading the thoughts of absolute strangers and these beggars, many of who are regulars at the traffic stop at Brigade road seem emancipated yet if you look at them while they are having their lunch or between work (which is when the lights are green) then you'll not see a tinge of sadness.
For many of us, who can have their lunch only at times that are scheduled by our Managers, these people seem to be having it easy. They don't need to wait for the end of the month for payday. If you ask me, I'd say many of these people are richer than any of us. With so much income coming in and almost zero expences, heck, you need to tax these people !

Some of them carry a crutch and feign a limp. What a scam!

Many of them are victims of circumstance. People who shouldn't be there in the first place. People who just want a lot of your money in their pockets.
But who among us isn't a victim of fate and circumstance?
We all have disabilities. Some of us have problems being committed to their partners and spouses, some of us have problems excelling at work, some of us have problems emoting to our loved ones and then there are some of us who will struggle all our lives to achieve the Great Indian Dream.

If people who are not poor but find ways to feign poverty to gain sympathy and thereby our money, would you call them beggars or con artists?
With a action of the hand that simulates eating, our beggars have almost perfected art of living off our sympathy. Kids are a commodity. Handicapped? Excellent. Couple that with the rags, the dried streaks of tears and the malnourished kids that are tied so tightly to the lady, that if not hunger, suffocation will surely kill 'it'. What is happening of that child when he/she grows up? Ordinary people fortunate to afford good health care are reeling with the effects of pollution, global warming, inflation and corruption. What about these kids, who are also our future citizens?
We are slowly but surely chewing our own tail.

When there is so much charity going around and with so many more people giving, why are there so many beggars in the streets of India?
I have seen ordinary people living in squalid slums and dilapidated houses, with little or no money (saved or earned) but with integrity and self respect that disallows them from begging.
With a burning desire to earn a respectable living, they strive to get ahead in life. And sometimes, more often than not their descendants live a better life.

Our inclination for handouts and free stuff, our aversion to anything that resembles hard work and the lack of vocational training that is competitive enables beggars to breed, both in literally and otherwise.

Very few nations are free from beggars but when a foreigner talks and reminisces about India, the beggars are surely going to be one of the sore sights. Of course gathering all of them and 'disposing' them off away from our sight is also not the thing to do. But we need to radically change the way we think and act.
Discourage begging. Encourage entrepreneurship. Provide free health care (Put all our Tax Rupees to better use). Ofcourse we can never wipe off poverty from India, but we can certainly make our Race a lot less notorious.

Next Week, I take on the Eunuchs of Bangalore! Yay!

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