Thursday, March 5, 2009
Last night it was very cold and slightly foggy. It must have been about 11.30 pm or so and I was on my way back from office. On the signal near my house, I saw a beggar. I always see him. A frail old guy, grey, almost white hair, wearing glasses that were thick and one could hardly see what his eyes were like. He was clad in a light green dhoti or what we in UP call angocha, and a kurta which had almost gone black with all the smoke from the vehicles. He had an aluminum bowl in his hand and he was begging. Shivering and shaking, going from one car to another. He was bare feet and upto his thighs his legs were all bare.
All the cars waiting had their windows up, mostly must have had their heaters on and hardly bothered about him. Some didn't even notice him, their attention was focused on the signal, waiting for it to turn green.
I was farther off in my car, windows down, enjoying the feel of the winter and watching this old beggar go from one car to another... Before he came to me the signal turned green and I too like others sped away.This beggar however left me unsettled and triggered some questions:
- What would I have done if he had come to me?
- I generally don't give money to beggars but what would I have done to this one who was shivering in cold?
- He genuinely was shivering out of cold or was pretending?
- Would a rupee or two have been of any use to him or should I have taken off my warm sweater and given to him?
- Would he have survived yet another day to be back at night begging again?
- Is it right to not help beggars by way of giving them a rupee today and then letting them be like this forever?
- Does a one rupee clear my conscious and can I still go to bed and sleep well?
- Does that beggar think of all these things or is it that for him its a business...
As I write this I remember a joke told to me by my grandmother, long back. She once scolded a beggar begging on the traffic signal,"Why are you begging, why don't you do some work?" He replied, "that's what I am doing, can you beg on the crossing in this heat? Try it" My grand mother did not know where to look.
Just a passing thought...
Shubhra, January, 12, 2007
Shubhra 4th February 2007
Shubhra, 17th March 2008, 2.30 pm