Well I felt that just this one latest situation I saw, triggered this blog,
I was just looking around at some books while walking on the road. There were as usual peddlers and beggars around. I ignored them and was quite engaged with the books when suddenly a young couple caught my attention. They reminded me of some of my relatives and friends who have been aggressively active in social service. The term ‘aggressively active’ doesn’t suggest more social activity than a normal social worker would do, but aggressive in their expression of sadness when they see a helpless situation. If they see a handicapped person doing something that everyday person would do, they would give so pathetic or highly emotional that even the handicap person would suddenly realize his handicap and loose all the confidence he had in doing the normal procedure.
Anyway, this couple was watching the poor begging mother holding a kid with ever-running nose. The girl with all her oohs and sobby expression was trying to convince her boyfriend to give the beggars something. When the boy gave a rupee coin the begging lady suddenly snapped back by saying ‘Bas ek rupaya?? Bhikhari samjha hai kya? Mein bacche ke khane ke liye maang rahi hoon’ (Just a rupee? You think I am a beggar? I am asking money to feed my baby’. Though this incident shocked the couple, it didn’t shock me, but it surely triggered many of past experiences directly with beggars or people who are not beggars materially but keep begging.
For the first beggars, we have always read many stories in newspapers of how the begging industry is really huge. They earn quite a good amount and are organized quite well, mostly by the mafia / underworld. When maintained by the underworld, the cut or the commission of these beggars is not very high. When it’s a large family of beggars doing their own job, the profits can be something you can’t imagine. I came to know about these people closely once when I was distributing clothes after a charity concert and another time when photographing them.
After the charity concert, I went to give clothes to these families and they were very happy. When I passed the road some days later and saw them in torn clothes again!! I went up to a man and asked, “What happened to the clothes? Did you sell them for something else?” He smiled and said “No Sir, we have it right in here but we wear them on a cold night. If I wear them during business time no one will give us any money.” Wow! A lesson learnt. It was a simple logic that I had failed to understand. They don’t have any other work to do, and if their profession is begging how can they afford to wear good clothes and beg?? That isn’t the begging uniform, there has to be a dress code of torn and dirty clothes, sick children with sad faces and stuffy noses and mind you… they all act well! While photographing them and especially talking to them about model-release n’ things, they were more open about how they operate and what kind of help they look for. I didn’t find their lie in the public eye wrong or ghastly. I think many businesses do that. Big brands that manufacturing their material in India, selling it in outside countries and we buying them as better quality clothes from any of the countries. Its business as usual… nothing personal!
And now coming to the people who are not beggars in the real sense (or let me put it as professional sense), but are always seen begging! I guess we come across these kind of beggars everyday and in every form I might say. These beggars usually are doing their begging with endless expectations and an incrementing demands in quality. The weapons they use are ‘their relation with you’, ‘their earlier help to you’, ‘their small investments for you expecting big returns’, but the best of all is ‘public tantrums’. You cannot really specifically target a person in this class. We also fall in this class of people many times till you are not understanding your dependence on anyone or anything around. I am badly dependent on my computer so I am always begging that there is no power cut. There is begging done. Though neither computer nor electricity is a person, not even an animal we do share a bond as if we both were organisms based on the same kind of system. So what if computers are silicon based and me a carbon based?
When two people are related and both are strong and independent there is not much of expectation or handicap in such a relation. But if any one person in a relation gets dependent on another person for any kind of handicap, that dependency never ends. Its like the person becomes a walking stick and that relation becoming the grip of that stick. As time passes by the relation grows stronger, the handicap person holds the grip tighter but walks faster all the time slowly starting to think that it’s the stick that needs him instead of him needing the stick. Expectations never drop because that is normal human nature. If the stick breaks for some reason, the handicap person sticks it again (considering that he doesn’t have access to another sticks at the time) and expects the same strength. In the other situation, like a virus he starts looking for some another stick that can replace his old one.
We face many such people all the time who use us and maybe throw us like sticks. But what has it to do with the beggar episode? Everyone would sure remember a time when you helped someone for quite much time to get out of a huge problem or just push them up to their goals. When they reach their goal they either forget you or come back with a new problem. They start taking you for granted to solve their problems which is fine enough. You actually upgrade them to a better person with new confidence and strength, but they use the same to put you down. With their new built confidence and abilities they slowly start showing you how they are better than you, and how you fail to support them properly. Eventually a time comes when they start showing themselves better and strong and you as weak in public. There is no way you can avoid them or confront the truth to them because of your relation and true ability. This is not a case like teacher and student, because a student is aware that he she is a student. Eventually you reach a beggar’s point (as I call it), when the handicap person gets arrogant and strong enough to decline your help because he feels that you are incapable of helping a strong person like him.
So eventually BEGGARS ARE CHOOSERS!!!! But I also know that a crab is crab. It never walks straight but will always think that it is walking straight. It is very right for a crab to walk like that, it is not supposed to walk straight like we do, but identifying a crab is important. Identifying the leech or the virus kind of behavior is important. This will always save us from helping wrong people and making a fool of ourselves. There are ignorant people around. Their ignorance becomes arrogance with time, but since they are based on a foundation of ignorance, their achievements and arrogance collapse with time. The control of time is not in our hands but the utilization of time is. We don’t have the control over relations that just end up happening by themselves but we do have a way of controlling how they proceed. It is always good to be smart, intelligent and having our eyes wide open to understand our own capabilities and handicaps. More important than avoiding these kind of beggars around, we should avoid being one of them. Dependency is handicap in material world just as relationship attachments are handicap in spiritual world. Maybe its very difficult to avoid them in normal life, but for sure we can be grateful and non-ignorant not disrespecting the people who gave us those alms that we needed… who laid the foundations we stand upon today.
So always remember…. Beggars are choosers!
Photo credits: Nikhil Gangavane.