Saturday 18 September 2010

Hands stretched: The other side

Travelling regularly in trains, I often encounter beggars of both genders walking the aisle and stretching out their hands. The stretched hands belong to different age-groups. I don't like giving alms for various reasons which I will shortly discuss. Today when an old man stretched out his alms, I looked at him and nodded a 'no,' indicating that I will not give him anything. He immediately started mumbling something in an angry tone. It seemed that he was abusing me for not giving him anything.

Personally, I feel that begging will not solve the bigger problem. And another reason that I refuse money is that there are many beggars who fill the trains and streets of Chennai. One can see different groups of people: blind, lame, with children, singers, old people, etc. I think that by dispensing a few coins when hands are stretched out will not yield anything. Sometimes I throw philosophies outside the window and don't mind giving coins. But I am always confused by this persistent problem.

There are some beggars who tag at clothing and follow the person for a distance. Many individuals give a few coins just to get rid of the persistent member. Another instance is that of beggars hurling insults if you refuse them alms.

In India, the problem of beggars is increasing by the day and there seems no solution either by the state or central government. It is sad. I would love to contribute something where the problem is solved at the level of the root.

There have been times when I have seen children begging and when I offered to buy them food, they bluntly refused. The wanted money instead. There have been reports that there are syndicates which employ people to beg and collect money. The point of begging as an employment is also somewhere at the back of my mind.

When I was in UK, I was happy to see that there were hardly any beggars who hound you on the streets. If so, what is the problem in India? Maybe the alarming rate of increase in population or are people opting the easy way out.

I am still wondering about the old man who mumbled abuses at me. Why does he beg?

What do you think people should do when accosted by beggars?


  1. Refuse to give alms. That's the only way begging can be discouraged.

    Once, when I was at a petrol pump, a lady came, asking for alms in the name of a Goddess. As usual, I refused. And the pump attendant told me that they had offered her work at the pump, but she refused!! He said, they simply want money but don't want to work for it.

  2. It's a tricky thing... if you give alms, you are encouraging begging which is wrong and if you do not give, then you become a target for abuse (by some) and sometimes even you feel bad for not helping them.

    In Slumdog Millionaire, they had shown that begging is a part of a syndicate and its run like a full-fledged business!!

  3. Vinay:

    I always refuse as I hope that will discourage begging but NO. Many times I have offered to buy food for them but they blatantly refuse.


    Welcome again. You have rightly mentioned that it is tricky. When people around me give alms and I don't, even the people think I am heartless. I don't much bother about people, but such is the attitude. SM showed reality, I reckon. In Bombay it is like that but I wonder about other places. Maybe it is.

  4. Very interesting post indeed. We have no beggars in Denmark at all. We have some people that will be carrying out some really bad street performing at times, but no one begs.
    Perhaps beggars reflect the state of the society. In Scandinavia unemployed people are given money by the state to be able to live comfortably, no one starves or lacks roof over their head, thus no one is forced to walk the streets to get food. But then again it all comes to a price: our taxes are sky high. But I rather pay them and sleep good at night.;)
    Have a lovely weekend my dear Susan,

  5. i guess it is all in their demeanor for me...those that are pushy or demanding i tend to pass those that carry a level of humility in their station i tend to talk hear their stories...not always, but some...i think one should take care though not to get hurt..

  6. My dearest Susan,

    There are beggars everywhere, in some places more than others... This is like Oliver Twist, although he was trained to pickpocket, I believe the new poor generation children are trained to beg, which is less harmful, sociably accepted and it inspires a compasion and an impotence which lets you at awe when you see their mysery and makes you (rather forces you) to do the easy thing> give them money, get rid of a bit of that'all' we have(how unfair)... So if we do not give them anything we go and feel guilty... BUT, if they dare complain because you say 'no', then that I would not admit either...
    Yes... there are so many other ways to help other people...

    I usually say no, and childen I always give because they touch my heart too deeply...

    Great post again, my friend



  7.'s always a tricky issue..but I have always felt that giving alms encourages begging so I try and not give any although I want to...Sometimes I do tend to give n though..but if someone instead of begging is selling something I do buy it even if it is not of any use to me whatsoever. It is better than begging..

  8. Hi Susan, I am meandering my way back to you babe. Hee Hee. Back to blogging again with a new site. Could not stay away cos I missed you guys.

    Agree with Minstrel on that point, I would buy stuff esp those who are disabled. But not those who are healthy with everything intact and yet are begging. What of those who are in need of our help. Instead we have given our resources to con men.

  9. I echo your thoughts but the problem is SO big that we just can't get to the roots..and if you at all reach to the roots you'll find there are multiple problems entangled with each other....

    have you seen the movie TRAFFIC SIGNAL? check that

  10. I agree it's a tricky situation. I am more likely to give if they are not "regulars" at a corner.

  11. I feel uneasy, only when they follow me. I'll walk as fast as i can and escape that area. No beggar now accepts food or clothes. They need money only.

    One solution I can suggest is that putting all the handicapped beggars in one place and providing them the basic amenities, with little work extracted from them.

    For children the same facilities must be provided along with education

  12. I give food to people I feel like giving. I generally buy them something good and freshly packed. Like puffs, pastries. I started doing that when I give a kid a parle G pack and he said.." Akka..can I take something else." This made me realize they have a choice too and if you can offer that to them nothing better,. I can never forget the smile on that kids face when I took back the parle G pack gave him a pastry instead.

    The scams and all are true.. but I just do it when I feel like doing it. One word of caution.. when you offer biscuit packs etc.. tear off the pack a little. Because they might resell it if you don't do that.

  13. I have often had similar thoughts. For me I have had to intentionally push aside those thoughts because if do not then I do nothing. I cannot image how horrible it would be to have to beg and I am thankful I have a home, job and food. Men will always find a way to exploit a situation for greed. That does not change the real problem that exists. Be wise and don’t let evil people keep you from doing good. Today I encourage you – tomorrow, will you encourage me? I will need it. Thanks!

  14. As you say, in England, there are very few beggars and so I've never really been exposed to them. But when I went to Italy, I was shocked by the amount of people on the streets, some suffering from severe medical problems, begging for money - men and women of all ages, and, indeed, children.

    I was shocked and saddened, but I didn't give out any money. The thing is, one simply can't know where that money's going. It could be fuelling drugs, prostitution and a whole host of other crimes. There are, as you point out, organisations which employ beggars and then use their collected money for unsavoury purposes.

    Giving a few coins will not solve or help anything. In many cases, it will merely exacerbate the situation. To solve this gargantuan problem, one has to look far deeper - to change society's attitude, to put in place laws that protect and help the most vulnerable and poorest in one's country.

  15. Susan, I think it reflects on how much our state isolates the very poor. There is pretty much no state support if you're homeless or unemployed. Then, there's the kind of petty crime lords who run begging rings..running this sort of efficient business off of purposefully maiming kids and hiring old, infirm people to tug at people's heartstrings and help them loosen pursestrings..

    I suppose a lot of people trashed Slumdog Millionaire for being poverty porn..but was the film really that far from the truth of city streets?

    You know, I always wonder, even if I do give them money, am I really even improving their lot?

    I'm really not, am I? Just enabling them! so well, I dont give them any money either, but sometimes there's these really little kids. And I cant not give.

    It seems unfair that I have so much, when others have so little.

    I have this ominous feeling that if we continue to exclude people from the economic gain our country is thriving on, we are going to face a class war some day. Something like the riots in France last year. There's news of food riots in Maharashtra..over the rising inflation rates and the government letting foodgrains rot away..

    Beggars are just a reflection of our poor social structure and imperfect economic model. Like Malthus said, economics is a "dismal science".

    Its good to be reading your blog again, dear Susan! It is more lovely looking since last I saw it! :)

  16. I would have trouble living in India. When I went on vacation once to Santo Domingo, I encountered so many rude beggars, I was actually angry at them.

    But here in the States, I do often feel badly for the people forced to beg. My husband thinks I am too gullible, that they are often just doing it as a sort of job. But, I guess I'm just glad I don't have to beg for any reason. Now, I give when I think they are sincere, but I think my husband may be right.

  17. I honestly don't know what the answer is. I just went to New York City last week and had a woman begged at the merge of a highway, then others on the train, then some on the subway. I gave them all. I dont know why. Maybe because I imagine what that life is like.
    When I went to Mexico City, my friends warned not to give to beggers, yet I did. I had many of them following me after. And in Ecuador, a woman chased me for blocks because i had given another woman clothing and she wanted the same for her.
    You wonder...but then again, they live in a different world than we do, a world of survival. Different rules than we are accustomed to.

    On my visit to my native country Colombia, I remember a woman praying in the Church. She looked poor, old, desperate. I put a $10 bill in her hand and walked a way. She looked at me with tears in her eyes.

    I feel for the kids. My son gave money to a kid because he was selling gum at 11:00 pm in Ecuador and said go get something to eat. The mother came and took the money off the kids hand.

    It is a sad life, a hard life.

    I dont know what the solution is. I dont have it

  18. Hi Susan,
    Nice Post! Now-a-days this begging trick is employed for marketing/sales. Last week when i went for shopping, a kid (6 to 8 years) came to me and asked to procure somethings like a hook and ear pads with inferior quality. I refused to procure the kid started to complain that he did not eat for past couple of days. When I offer food for him, he refused and forced me to procure something. It looks like there is a definite syndicate behind it for taking advantage of people's sympathy. It is very important for the government to tackle this issue as early.

  19. I've refused to give alms and I think that's because I think the money goes to someone up above. If you've read A Fine Balance, there's a character called the Beggarmaster and I totally believe someone like that exists in the real world. And we do not solve the problem. The governments need to do something about harsh as it sounds...

  20. Susan, I think you're doing the absolute right thing to do. There are beggars everywhere, but it is true that they come in higher numbers in certain places. I learned a long time ago not to fall for some of the "injuries" that beggars have, basically, when one day, while stuck in traffic, I saw a "beggars' meeting" in a small alley, where the leader was dispensing various injuries and diseases, etc. and sending people out to do their "jobs" across the city.

    One time, my husband tried to give a man food, and he got a hurl of abuse back, "I don't want your stupid food. It's money I want." My husband snatched the food away from him and walked off. Yes, there are people who suffer from poverty in a real way, but the fact is that most of the time these people have too much pride to beg.

    It is a sad place to be when we feel guilty about doing the right thing, dear Susan.

    A very realistic post!


  21. I don't support begging so i would say don't encourage it either ways. But yes, we need to look deeper into the matter. There are laws (something like that) which discourages begging but they need to be implemented strictly.

  22. Zuzana:

    You must be a blessed nation for having no beggars at all! Cheers to your government. We need to learn from your country! Taxes, if spent the right way are always a pleasure to pay!


    Sometimes it is just difficult.

  23. Dulce:

    Even children in India are a smart lot. they just know how to annoy to into giving money. The problem of begging is quite a persistent one in our country. There are so many of them.


    Welcome to the meanderings. Joy to have you here. I am not sure even about the ones who sell stuff.

  24. Gaia:

    Such a joy to have you back in Blogosphere. Glad! I missed you as well :) Almost everyone who begs seems healthy to me. Sometimes I wonder if they are just plain lazy!


    The problem is definitely BIG. Wonder what the government has done or is doing?

  25. BB:

    The ones I see in trains come almost everyday. I know each one of them quite well by sight.


    Even I feel uneasy and cornered at times.

  26. Sameera:

    I liked the way that boy asked for a pastry. If I came across such people, I would be more than glad to help but alas! everyone wants money.


    You are looking at it from a very pragmatic position but does that solve the problem? If we compare ourselves to the beggars, then it is an unfair situation for us to be in.

  27. Sam:

    Change, you have just said it but how will it come. One day it will all burst forth like the French Revolution!


    Glad to have you in the rounds again. Been long long. All the questions that you have raised run in my mind as well. There should be changes in policies framed by the government.

  28. Myrna:

    I am having the same trouble. I just wish something is done for this problem. Who is sincere and who is not is a great question to ask before dispensing a few coins.


    Welcome to the meanderings. Glad to have you here. It is indeed a sad and hard life for them. Even I don't have a solution.

  29. SS:

    Welcome Siva. Nice to read your insight here. And thanks for the following. It is much appreciated. I understand what you are saying. But how can we just ignore the state of the society.


    Governments!!! SIGHS

  30. Nevine:

    The "dispensing of injuries" is quite common in India as well. All of us know all these realities but still the heart melts when we see someone with outstretched arms.
    Even I have tried buying food but it was refused by the person.


    I am with you on this. A healthy society should have no beggars and no crimes.



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