EditorsEdit :The Beggars of India
Just yesterday, we watched an extremely old woman begging at a traffic signal in pouring rain, with a sheet of plastic barely covering her. Many must have taken a rupee out for her by rolling their windows that morning- we did. I have often observed that it is the relatively less well to do that often end up giving alms, more than the ones traveling in their cars with windows rolled up. It’s easier to lock your guilt and force oneself not to look at the beggar to avoid giving alms and looking at reality. The commuter on the bike has no such luxury. If he does not look, the beggar will tug at him and by extension tug at his guilt.
Yet, the bigger problem is that the guilt doesn't go away once you are done with giving your daily quota of alms. You cannot wash it, little by little with the rupees you throw away. In fact, after you have given that rupee you often end up feeling guiltier- for giving too less. Those traffic signals which turn green abruptly, forcing you to step on the gas and move away while you were fishing for that rupee, are the worst.
The city where I live is well known for its prowess in Information technology. The growth rate of the economy has been scorching for the past few years and the money just keeps rolling, for the privileged few. But perversely, this has also led to an unprecedented rise in the number of beggars. What was a trickle has led to a flood. There have been cries that the "Government needs to do something”. Yet I think the beggars perform an important function in our city. They keep our conscience alive and that’s hardly a contribution that can go a begging!
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