NOTE : Photograph at end of the text below. But i recommend people read the text too.
Today, i was in Mehdipatnam, Hyderabad and was on my way to Crossword Bookstores at Banjara Hills which was some 6-7kms away from this place. I just got down from an auto-rickshaw and was walking along the footpath. First i saw a little kid with another, younger little kid begging in the buzzing citizenry around. I take my camera with me most of the time and today, i did. I took the camera from my pocket, though i was not intending to click unless i get to talk to those little kids. This was almost routine for me – i see a kid begging. first thing on my mind would be “why does he have to do this?” and then “is he alone now?” and then “could i approach him and make him talk?” and them, my fear “or would i scare him off?”
With these many thoughts inside my head, i often won’t act at all. I just stay, looking, thinking and feeling bad and sad about all this. But today was different, when he saw that i was seeing them, the elder kid started to yell to his younger brother(i guess he is his brother) and they started to walk away with a brisk pace. The elder kid constantly turned back to look at me, his eyes and the emotion they carried almost made me go blank. He surely was scared but i did nothing to scare him, i was only intending to talk to them and maybe by doing that i could make them feel bette….
And then, immediately after i lost sight of them among the crowd, i saw a few more beggars in the crowd, all holding out their arms, ragged clothes on, little babies on their shoulders, some holding photos of GODS, some clasping arms into a NAMASHKAR. I can estimate the number to 10+. My heart skipped. This is not new, i know. This is common here, in India. What was frightening is, you can just let all this not effect you if you walk away. But i stood there. I just stood there. People would have thought i was mad holding a camera, standing in the midst of “walking people”, looking around as if the world is new. No, the world is not new. Nor what is happening in here everyday. It’s our choices that are new. I chose to stand there. And be lost in thought. And maybe i drifted into a labyrinthine maze inside my head, wherein i have to win the maze to regain my senses.
I stood there, mind heavy, heart heavy, eyes heavy. I was watching those beggars i just saw. They were walking towards where i was standing, i was just another “person” whom they would beg, beg for money. I stood there. I know what i was doing.
And the first “family” of beggars came, stood in front of me. This family is in the photograph below. Only two, i gave them money and took a photograph and told them to leave. I was actually waiting for the “other family” of beggars to come to me. That family had a woman and 3 kids. Kids of age 6-12 maybe. And they eventually approached me, the first one to ask me for money was the eldest kid, i stared at him. And then the other kid started to ask for money to. I still stared. Then i looked at her mother, i don’t know what my face and eyes looked like that moment, but i was angry and sad. I asked her quietly, “WHY ARE YOU MAKING ‘THEM’ BEG??????”.. She replied, “They have no father”.
I said, ” MAKING THEM BEG IS NOT CORRECT. IT IS NOT RIGHT!!!!”
She replied, quite apprehensively, “i mean..they..they go to school actually..they took a day off today..just today…they go to school daily”.
I thought, ah! this very “today”. But i asked which school and where it was, her answer seemed 50% legit. I let it go.
I repeated, “MAKING THEM BEG IS NOT RIGHT. NOT RIGHT”, i might have told that at least 20 times. What was fueling that i don’t know.
That woman seemed to not bother at all, i saw no guilt in her eyes.
For one last time, i repeated, “MAKING THEM BEG IS NOT RIGHT!!!”
and gave the elder kid 10 rupees and this time I WALKED AWAY.!!
That was very hard to take in. Very very hard. And know what happened then?
The woman’s two elder kids, to whom i just gave money, chased me back and started to beg, more fervently. I stopped and stared at them.
Am i dead?
Well, i felt so.
But as life should be, i walked away, i won’t say “i moved on”, because i never will. i boarded a bus. i went to the bookstore, spent a good 60 peaceful minutes, bought some books and got out of the store.
And you know where i was?
I was in India.