The tag line of IDEO fellowship 2012- 13, says let’s design an end to poverty.
This made me think of what defines poverty in physical terms. While my thoughts were taking me into a different world all together, my car halted at a red light, and with unfaltering routine my wind shield was pelted by a desolate woman, carrying a sick child.
I looked at her with empty eyes and she stared right back. Neither had any apathy for the other. She begged for some money pointing towards the child that she was carrying. The child’s head was bandaged and a prominent red patch was visible, strategically placed keeping in mind the perspective of a bystander.
The child looked distant, maybe this lady was not it’s mother, maybe she was, maybe she was not a mother after all, maybe… They are really needy! Maybe they are…Not
Begging in India is a full fledged business, facts of which has been show in cinema, of recently a very famous and Oscar winner movie “slumdog millionaire”.
Children, women, amputated men are common sights on the traffic lights of cosmopolitan cities such as Delhi/ Mumbai. They live under the flyovers, in basti’s , dividers, and some who are lucky enough on the railways stations.
The art of begging is highly organized & systematic, complete with a complex hierarchical system. An Indian movie called “footpath” was indeed an eye opener for me. It showed the life style of beggars in India, a highly organized business.
When this problem runs so deep & is firmly rooted in the bowels of the Indian culture ( caste system ), wherein we believe that people are divided by their castes, will they ever learn to see one as equal?
So many times, we have read of government policies to eradicate poverty fall flat on it’s faces, not because of lack of initiative from the govt, but misuse of those Initiatives by the beggars themselves.
I wonder how much does a lady beggar earn in a day? What strategies do they use to trick hardened seasoned drivers like us, who have trained ourselves to ignore another human being banging on their closed windshield.
Sometimes, only reacting if our spotless cars get spotted by their vermin feet, the act again can be innocuous or pre-meditated.
I also came across a con beggar once. This happened when I was in an auto in Mumbai, and it had halted on a traffic signal. An old man came upto my auto and started requesting me to give him some money to buy his medicines. He claimed that he did not have enough money and produced a chit to validate. He kept on taking “allah’s” name, trying to prove his virtuous nature.
I fell into his trap and gave him a tenner just so that he could stop pestering me. The moment the exchange happened, he vanished and the autowallas started laughing at me, saying that he was a seasoned beggar and would spend that money on alcohol.
I was so angered by this output but did not know how to react.
Who are we to blame for such a situation? Who are we to blame when another human being beseeching help? Who are we to blame our hardened hearts?
Is it then, be said that begging indeed is a symbol of poverty??