The easily forgotten roadside thoughts…

Roadside thoughts.

One. How do they survive?

Two. Do they even get one day’s meal?

Three. Can they not get employed somewhere? Govt can employ them to clean roads, and pay them daily wages.

Four. What happens in winters?

Five. Were they born in poverty or they reached this pathetic condition later on in life?

Six. Will they be there if I come back after a week?

Seven. What if they need medical attention?

Eight. What happens when they die?

Nine. Does the world care?

Ten. Can I change the world?

Eleven. I am getting late for my job! Need to produce some electricity to keep our cities lighted. Probably I’ll catch a snack on the way. Hmmm…

44 thoughts on “The easily forgotten roadside thoughts…

  1. India is still a very conformist society. Many people are still stuck in the old caste system. To get out of a situation you have to be able to think for yourself. In a conformist atmosphere, you are not supposed to do that.

    Britain introduced the tipping society. Tipping leads to corruption. Although I saw enormous progress during my visit to India last September, a lot still needs to be done so that government funding really arrives in one piece at the right place.

    So, one needs to break with the past, something that is indeed happening. But the break away will take at least two, perhaps three generations.

    Passing them will not make their lives better. Why don’t you make a first step and talk to them, listen to what they have to tell you, and deliver them your smile and attention.

    • I agree with you, it’ll take more than just two or three generations to overcome the economic differences in the society.
      And most of all, every one should consider it their persona; responsibility to take the nation forward. People have a mentality to first think about themselves, then their families, their relatives. So only a handful of India’s population is actually working for “India” as a whole, not for themselves or just the ones they are surrounded by!

      • … but there is progress, and hope. Unlike in the West, the media in India are doing a great job making people aware that they have rights … (but most of the time, of course, it’s show time)

      • Media, according to me, is irresponsible.
        No offence, but most of their programs/news/issues covered are for their TRPs or marketing, and NOT for awareness. Media has a such a strong power, that if they put it into a good use it’ll benefit millions!!!!

      • In a country like India, with the masses below average, the media still do a lot more good than bad. Yes, it is sensational, and yes the media play a bitter game of courting the viewer and showing him/her what (s)he wants to see, but the world of the viewer is growing beyond comparison nevertheless. There is now food for any mind wherever in the country, while 25 years ago there was only village talk.
        Besides, without viewers there is no publicity and no funding. They removed DDindia from Astra Europe because there was not enough cash/interest to pay for the channel.
        Something is always better than nothing. There is progress, but yes, they could do a lot more.

  2. I too wondered about these issues but moved on, not being able to find the answer. The disabled cannot earn a living therefore they beg. The rural poor move in-order to find jobs in the nearest or larger city and are caught/exploited in the poverty trap.
    I assume some form of dehumainsing takes place, wherever large clusters of people gather together.

  3. If safe, I have taken time to know some of them and can answer most of your questions about some of the broken lives. Quite often the story shows how they became marginalized and funds are not adequate to manage basics of shelter, food and getting it all back together. Most are disabled. Thank you for this post.

  4. I haven’t read them all, but I think most of the replies are from your fellow Indians. Here’s how one tourist dealt with the issue of beggars – I quote from my blog posts Tiruvannamalai, India. Part 4, and Tiruvannamalai, India. Part 5.

    This is not in any way to suggest a solution. Far from it. It is just to share how one tourist dealt with the issue of beggars.

    “Beggars: From the impressions I had gleaned of India over the years I had expected that there would be many beggars here. In fact there are no more beggars here in Tiru than there are in Vancouver. Initially I treated them the same as I treated the beggars in Vancouver; largely ignoring them and occasionally feeling compelled and/or inspired and/or open hearted enough to give one or other of them some money. I have been aware for a long time of a small but persistent inner contraction each time I would see a beggar, as if I somehow had to arm myself against them. Then one day last week I suddenly saw it in a whole new light.

    It appears that we have choices in life. According to the choices made some people sink, some swim. Some thrive, some barely survive. Some make “good” choices, others, not so much. But where we apparently don’t have a choice is the circumstances we are born into, and the circumstances we are born into have a huge impact on the range of choices available to us later in life. So according to our circumstances, when we grow up we get the best kind of job we can. It suddenly occurred to me that beggars spend all day asking people for money. That’s their job. That’s the best they were able to come up with given their circumstances. Of course fund-raisers also have the same job – asking people for money, usually including their own salary, but it’s all dressed up in a much more attractive and socially acceptable package. Anyway I suddenly saw begging in a completely different light. These people are just doing their job. I was also faced with what I knew – that for me to give 10 rupees to every beggar I saw every day would be nothing for me. Nothing. Ten rupees is 20 cents! Why on earth was I being so tight? So now when I go out I carry a pocket full of 10 rupee notes and give one to anyone who asks. Don calls it my Lady Bountiful money. It feels great!”

    “I’ve been thinking more about my insight regarding beggars (see last post) and realize that I don’t know how it will translate to the situation back home in Vancouver. Will I remain as openhearted? That’s to be discovered. I hope so. I also realize that my new found sense of comfort when confronted with beggars (and my willingness to give them money) may very well not be feasible at all in a big city like Mumbai. I understand there are many many beggars there, and that if you give money to one you will very quickly be surrounded by a crowd of them demanding money. So it’s also to be discovered how I’ll deal with them when/if I ever go to Mumbai (or somewhere like it). All I know is I’ve discovered a solution that works for me for this time and this place. They are starting to recognize me now. Many of them smile when they see me coming, and we each put our hands together in Namaste and bow, or touch a hand to the heart, and I give them some money and there are big smiles all round; very sweet, very real human contact. How much more fun and enriching that is than just walking by and trying to pretend they are not there.”

    We’ve recently been in Delhi and there we donated to, and did a tour of Old Delhi organised by, Salaam Balak, a foundation that helps street children.

    Hope this isn’t too long a comment. I’ve just about written a novel…….

    • This is absolutely the type of feedback I was expecting out of this post…to find ways to how can I make a difference!

      although I must agree, if I give cash to one beggar, soon I’ll be surrounded by a dozen. So I try to buy them all food (rice and lentil soup or chapati).

      I find it a better way to help…since I have seen kids been abused to indulge into beggary for their drunk-good-for-nothing fathers, and cash given to them goes straight-away into the pockets of fathers and the kids are left as-it-is on their own..

      • Yes food is a good solution, though we actually had one person in Delhi who begged for money for food, but when we offered to buy food he refused it.
        Salaam Balak says it’s easy for the street children (probably applies to adults too) in Delhi to get food from various charities that provide it. They mostly want the money for drugs (mainly glue) and to go to movies. When Salaam Balak finds a child their first priority is to find the parents. If the parents are abusive and the child wants to stay with the Foundation the next thing they do is put the child in rehab for 6 months to get him/her off the drug addiction. I think it is a marvellous organisation with a very realistic view of how it is for children on the street, and what can be done to help them.

  5. “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” Rabindranath Tagore.

    There are famous Indians who found solutions to situations, names such as:
    Gautama Buddha, Ashoka, Shivaji, Guru Nanak, Akbar, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Vinayak (“Vinoba”) Narahari Bhave.

    Individualist Capitalism or Socialism nor Communism have the answer.

    The subject you raise is colossal and I doubt if it is political. ” Easily forgotten..” is one response.

  6. I spent some time in Toronto, Canada (I’m from Calgary, originally) this summer. I saw a man passed out right in the middle of the sidewalk. I say he was passed out, but at that point he looked close to dead, and I was astonished as I watched people literally step over him. Not a single person stopped to see if he was okay.

    Unable to turn a blind eye due to my conscious saying, “If he is actually hurt and needing help, you’ll never forgive yourself if you walk away”, I approached him. Yes, the assumption everyone was making was true: He was a homeless man laying across the way hoping to get some attention and maybe some change.

    Regardless, I’m sad that someone being “homeless” makes it acceptable somehow to just look away. Does being homeless mean he’s less deserving of medical treatment if he did need it? How would we know if he was in trouble if no one is taking the time to find out?

    On a personal level, I’m alarmed that I could pass out in the middle of the sidewalk and no one would bother ringing an ambulance assuming that I’m drunk or homeless. I guess I’ll make sure not to have a heart attack or stroke on the streets or Toronto.

    • Very well said Satya.
      It is alarming to see that so many people pass by the same streets and see the same roadside beggars and neglect them! I, on a personal level, have thought of adopting homeless kids with HIV, who have just a few more years to live. I am in contact with CSR of my company and aiming to make this world a better “home” for everyone..

  7. This reminds me of Portland, OR; after living there for a while, I often had the same thoughts about the homeless I would see on the streets. It often brought me to tears as I felt helpless to do anything about their plight.

    Thank you for offering such a moving piece.


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