We were strolling down the road when a man stopped us. All he wanted was ‘pachaas paisa’. How many of us remember what pachaas paisa is worth? He was wearing a clean albeit torn white shirt, trousers and spectacles. Quite stoically he put the coin into the little cloth bag on his shoulder and turned away.
An hour later, we were crossing the road and we came face to face with a family…father, mother, two kids waiting to cross to the other side. Or so I thought…the man asked for “some help”.
As we parked outside the restaurant, yet another man with a wife and a baby in her arms approached us and started off a rapid monologue in broken hindi/marathi. Then he stopped and said “mujhe bhi achcha nahin lag raha hai aapse poochte hue(I am not liking asking you this either)” wherin the lady chipped in with “gaon mein hamare khet hai (we have fields in the village).” A ten-rupee note didn’t seem like a lot to me. And not to him too apparantly. We left him muttering “Das rupaiya..?”
Yes, there is begging and poverty in the world. Every day I pass street kids, maimed people, old men, young women – in trains, at traffic signals, outside buildings. Every day I pull down a shutter of indifference and righteous cynicism to protect me from what I don’t want to think about.
But today was…well, what is happening? Comparatively better dressed people, younger, healthier human beings begging for money, for food, for support, for help. Its easy for me to dismiss it saying that a healthy body and mind deserves to be put to use to earn one’s keep. Yet, deeper than that, to what extent has life degraded for a person to let go of the last vestige of humanity – his pride? What has it gotten to where a human being can give up his self-respect and degrade himself to the world?
I stood and listened for five minutes before handing over money. I watched him degrade himself and then I paid for the luxury of being able to do just that. Or was I paying to forget that he existed in a world of others like him…and that same world as mine?
I hope I never have to beg.
I hope nobody I love ever needs to beg.
I hope I don’t ever face anybody who begs again.
I hope tomorrow is too busy a day for me to remember what I felt today.
I’d rather beg this of life than beg the world for my life.