Saturday, January 06, 2007

Extreme Mendicancy!

I am rather upset a little (just a bit, not much) by the following examples of mendicancy:

The last few days I saw novel formsof begging being done in the Indian urbs prima - Bombay. In the first instance, there was ths group of attractive-looking pubescent girls dressed in low-slung jeans, tops, and short hair boldly and brazenly stopping people on the road, paper in hand. They all were rather giggly and neatly rounded in shape and had figures like the number eight.

Even I was stopped by a girl wearing a trendy capri trousers and high heels and this paper which said they were from some village and that their village (imagine these modern-looking girls living in villages) have been hit by some catastrophe (don't remember what, finer details escape me) and that they needed money.

I looked at the contribution list. People indeed are generous, I think. Rs 200, Rs 300, and even Rs 500. Who are these people? Who is leading them? No authoritative figures were around, no one who would look like they have a control over this operation, no address is mentioned on these papers.

I refuse to pay them and they nonchalantly go away.

The second thing is this:

There is this little girl of around eight years who comes into the train compartment every day, holding a harmonium in her hands. She doesn't play the instrument, nor does she sing. But, yes, she is crying, she wails, and says odd things like, "For three days I am hungry," waa... waa... "I will eat your shit," no jokes, she actually said that. I know it sounds crude and out of place, and it does embarass me a lot to put it here. What could make a citizen of a free, democratic country say this? Can poverty drive a person to such desperation?

The first day I saw her I looked away thinking somebody must have punished the little girl and forced her to beg and the tears are a result of this. That's how cynical I am. But, no, she did it the next day, and today, which was when I thought of writing about it.

Should I be apathetic and not have written about these things. But it did upset and disorient me. Who knows there may be people out there who feel likewise.

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