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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Trinket sellers

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Next time you come from market, mela, or some public gathering; pause, reflect and think the following.

Have you ever seen that little boy waiting by his weighing machine expecting you to pay one-rupee to know your weight? Have you noticed that little girl who is selling cheap imitations of jewellry and pestering your to buy them? Did you not fail to overlook that old man selling balloons in the corner? What about that lady with young baby trying to sell cheap plastic toys on the tattered rug? Did you happen to catch the plea in her voice when that old woman urged you to look at those ten rupee handkerchiefs and wallets?

Of course, you don’t need those things. You are not here to buy those things. You are, after all, not running a charity for world’s poor. Why should you bother about what’s not of interest to you? Wait, did you just gave that beggar ten rupees of alms? Of course, you did. You do, often. What can you do, they are so pestering. They knock on windows of your car. They stretch their little palm in your face. Then incessantly rant. They make you feel guilty about your fortune. You cannot bear to look at the skeleton of that famished baby. Moreover, you can afford it. What’s ten rupees to you anyway. Less than price of a samosa in multiplex theatre.

Did it occur to you that those who are trying to sell useless trinkets to you are trying to make their living by working and not begging? That they could as well wind up their little inventory and stretch their palms in your face? That their pride in their work and self-esteem is only thing that’s stopping them from joining million others who beg? I am sure you know that many beggars in India are professional beggars with lakhs of annual income and multiple flats in their name. I am sure you know that begging zones are mafia controlled and auctioned in underground market. You also perhaps know that that beggar at Mahalaxmi temple or Hazi Ali is probably wealthier that you.

How can people like you and me who ignore petty hardworking sellers and succumb to emotional blackmail of beggars can live with conscience? I know that not every beggar is fraud but isn’t ten rupee spent on someone who chooses to work rather than beg is better use of that money? For you and for him, both? Will you, then, not ignore her sales pitch next time you are in the market? Will you buy that map which you can throw right away? Will you please stand up and let the society know that it’s (economically) better to work and not beg? I hope you do. I seriously do. Or else, what lessons will they draw when they compare their change at the end of the day?

2 comments:

Partha said...

I am not very sure whether i make the right decision while i chose to pass a paltry one rupee coin to the beggar waiting in desperation for the act. At times when i chose to refrain from doing the same, i find it even more difficult. Your article is still posing me the same dilemma.

Ashish Gupta said...

I am not saying not to give to beggars, but only after you've not ignored those petty sellers. Obliging to one but ignoring others is wrong signal from my point of view. And I may leave with you a simple but profound lesson I learned after long:

Those who beg are not necessarily (mostly not) those who really need money, and those who really need money are not necessarily (mostly not) those who beg. Our money is better spent on helping those who really need our money. Rest all is being manipulated by those who don't need money.

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