Should we be giving money/food to beggars? Is it a good thing to do or is it encouraging a wrong practice?
There are a set of people who are absolutely against begging and on the other side there are people who feel the need to give something to every beggar who asks!
I have personally been on both ends of the spectrum and I am currently somewhere in between….not sure which side is right…( WTF! Looks like here is another that I am confused about!!)
This is something I have been thinking about for a very long time, but what instigated me to write about it today is something that happened with us today when we went to eat Dosas(Indian Pan cakes) at a Thele wala(road side cart seller) close to home.

Any place in Bombay which has Thele Walas selling food always has a group of regular beggars around. This ‘Khao Gali’ (Food Street) also had their set of beggars and a group decided to target us with their sad faces and very smart dialogues!
So a group of three kids…two girls of about 7-8 years with a 6-7 month baby were all around our car while we were eating inside. The girls had runny noses and were teary eyed. The baby was stark naked and was crying as if on cue.
Didi…app log itna kha rahe hai…hume bhi kuch de do”(“You’ll are eating so much..please give us something to eat also”) and may more such learned sad dialogues which although I knew were learned they still touched me somewhere..
So I told the kids…come with me…tell me what you want to eat! Everybody else in the car was like…stop it don’t encourage them etc etc…but I was like come on..they want to eat…what have I got to loose!
The kids realized…here is one more “bakara” for the day and they were like we want to eat vada pav…which we get near the temple ahead. I was like there is a sandwich wala here…come I will buy you sandwich…and the kids were the sandwich is please give us money!
In the meanwhile there were 5 other little boys and girls who realize there is a potential ‘bakara’ here and came an surrounded the car and everyone wanted money for vada pav!
The others in the car fired me and told me to get the hell into the car and get out of there! But since I promised the child I will give here something…I gave her a Rs 5 coin. The kiddo got into a negotiation with me on how and why I should give her 10 bucks!
It was honestly a little irritating but yet quite cute….the kids were all out to make a “bakara” out of me…I realize it…but yet I feel bad and play along sometimes….It is really so sad that people have to live in such pitiable conditions…We are so fortunate to have everything that we do!
So what should we do..? Give alms to beggars…or avoid…? I am sure everyone in India atleast would have asked themselves this question and come up with come rationale either ways…here is my though process…
Why give the beggars?
· We are fortunate and are definitely are in a better position then them today.
· We could very easily have been in their shoes had we not been born in the family that we were. If they were fortunate enough to be born in conducive circumstances like ours, they may have done much better than us
· Begging can be hard work…they are out there in the sun/rain cold all day, walking the streets. I am sure it must be very difficult.
· If you give…chances are you will accumulate good karma and get someone’s good wishes and chances are you will get much more in return

Why we should not give Beggars?
· It encourages begging and they do not use their time to do productive work. They are like parasites in the economy.
· It is an organized racket and they do it for a living. Check out this interesting article I came across.(Millionaire Beggars in India’s Financial Capital)
· They give the city and county a bad name especially when they hound foreigners

Well overall looks like the points supporting our giving beggars are more than points against giving beggars.

What we can do is take care of the following things while giving alms to beggars
· Give food instead of money- there was a time I would keep small biscuit packets in my car to give it away to beggars who would come and ask at signals.
· Avoid giving alms to able grown up beggars
PS-I came across this very nice article on beggars in different cultures




Filed under Thoughts and Feelings

3 responses to “Beggars…

  1. Anand.U

    Shilpa San…You like to discuss everything under the sun don’t you ??? … Well As Indians it took us 300 years to realize that we do indeed need freedom and to fight back…4 me It wud be unfair to comment or pass a judgement on few helpless Indians !!!

  2. HOBO

    We should try to provide work to people.
    I believe everybody got some working skills in him/her and we should know where/how to utilize it.

  3. Kunal

    Yes, giving food is much better than giving money.. I have been doing it for a while.. If I’m offering money, it’s always small.. I never let a beggar go by without money, given that i have change in my wallet..

    People tell me all sorts of things that they will now go drink and are now growing richer than I am and what not…

    I give money, offer food, just because i think I’m fortunate.. And btw, how much is 2 bucks going to affect my finances.. Fairly Negligible.. I don’t care what they do with it.. God gave me chance to help somebody, And I’m not going to let anybody go by unhappy..

    Shilpa, U r right that it is giving the city is a bad name when they follow some foreigners.. I was once near darjeeling when i was surrounded with beggars, some of them even hanging on my feet as i moved! I could not help but shout at a few of them.. Imagine a few foreigners with that..

    The police administration should take care of such things.. Who knows if there are a few pick pockets in the group! But they are only a negligible percentage of the begging community (Yes, community.. It’s now a community) while most of them actually suffer!

    I’ll be here!

    PS: i know the comment is too long.. But i did not want to miss a point that would contradict any of the statements above! Would want to post something on the same topic soon!

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