Monday, September 25, 2006

You are sooo not my problem...

The happiest people in India are the “beggars by choice.”  Certainly, there are quite a few beggars who really are disabled thru no fault of their own (some beggar rackets will intentionally maim young children to make them more piteous objects for begging), but most people who beg for money at intersections across India are beggars by choice.  And it’s a family business.

There is one such family that works intersections in the Indiranagar section of Bangalore.  Sometimes the patriarch (a man in his mid-sixties) pretends to be blind and walks amongst the cars stopped at the red light, other times he just has a “bum” leg.  There’s a motley assortment of children and young mothers.  Many times a mother will put a bandage on her baby’s head and rub some red liquid into the bandage, to make it appear that the child is ailing and she will use the money to get him or her medical attention.  

But you should see these families when they take their lunch break.  Of course, they are civilized enough to know that a meal is best enjoyed with company and while sitting under the protective shelter of a flowering gulmohar tree, not far from the “office,” er, intersection.  Really, an American might envy them their lunch - cheap, yummy eats under a tree with their dear ones.  

Then there’s the “employed” beggars -  the “buy this candy for my school” types.  i never bought from them in hoboken and i’m not gonna start doing it here.  

I laugh to myself when the beggars overstay their welcome at my car window - draping themselves over my windshield to look in my healthy white face with their piteous eyes, or follow me to stores staring at me as i order some snacks for my friends and family. Why should i be bothered when they choose to make this their livelihood, it is my choice not to support it.   This is a boomtown in boomtimes, and these are able-bodied people.  

I remember the first time i saw a “wheelchair” in traffic here in Bangalore. It’s more like a big tricycle for adults (all three tires are bicycle tires), and the pedals are hand pedals not foot pedals.  That is how some paralegics get around town to go to work, do their errands, visit family, friends, temples and mosques.   Not only is the whole of Bangalore traffic against them getting to their destination, but much of popular opinion is similar to what it was in the States 50 years ago - distrust and downright disgust that such people are making themselves visible to society.  And yet these guys go out every day and do their thing, day after day.  

So that is how i hold my head up and laugh to myself as i ignore these “beggars” and their “plight.”

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