Thursday, 2 April 2009

Spare Change

Originally written- 28th August 2008
Revised – 2nd October 2008

I have a very generous father. Not to me though. I’ve never been pampered. But we both share the same concern and interest in the welfare of the less fortunate, and he taught me to feel this way.

When we stop at traffic lights, scruffy looking little girls, and young but tired mothers, carrying babies with mucus all over their faces, often push their hands and sometimes their entire selves, through car windows, and auto rickshaws. While waiting for autos or to cross the road, the same faces of poverty, will crowd around you. They crowd around you, like the flies around them, penitently asking for us to spare them some mercy.

However, my father is often grudging with his alms when it comes to these unlucky souls. So I asked him about it. He justified, that this was all a big racket. Those girls who push themselves through tiny hoops, and mothers with bleating babies at their breasts, are all apparently pawns in a game. They all have to hand over their money to someone else, who’s getting rich off their sad faces.

Before you begin wondering about my father, let me tell you, that this is a thought process very common to us educated middle class folks. If you pay close attention, you’ll see that other people who do have a happy jingle in their pockets, refuse the sad empty begging bowls as well. These morally righteous souls are also afraid of supporting this black market, I suppose.

People feel that they are better off not displaying mercy. They fear that if they take out their wallets, it’ll probably be snatched and run off with. Weren’t they better off ignoring?

Returning to the idea of sparing your change and how it can save the world:

My dad and I discussed this, and this is what I had to say:

Give them the change. Maybe it is a racket. But if we don’t give them the money, they’ll have nothing to give to the racket –incharge at sun down, and finally, they won’t have anything for themselves either.

It’s a choice.

CHOICE 1-Would you want them to die of hunger, because you want to be a ‘responsible citizen’ and not allow the racket lord to get rich (because you believe in equal distribution of wealth, or some such other close to impossible ideology)? And remember, you don’t even know for sure if the particular beggar in question is involved in the scam.

CHOICE 2- Or would you just give them the few bloody coins so that they can put something into their stomachs?

So you say you want to be a responsible citizen?

Let me ask you then.

After a satisfying meal at a restaurant, don’t you leave more money on your dinner table as a tip than you give to unfortunate beggars in a whole week? But then, if you didn’t do that 10 percent, you wouldn’t come across as a nice person to the family on the neighbouring table, would you now. Please realize, that waiters and bearers are at least getting a steady and assured salary. I’m sure that they don’t earn much. That I will not dispute. But at least they know where their next meal is coming from. The beggar you just walked past, doesn’t know why he is living, if he is going to live tomorrow or if he should even hope that he lives tomorrow.

If you hire a taxi for a day of sightseeing, don’t you leave the cabbie with some money, so that he can get himself some lunch? You probably don’t have to do that. He probably brings his own ‘tiffin’ from home. But you want to be a nice person, so you give him the few notes.

At certain airports, passengers are informed not to tip the coolies. They are a free service provided by the airport. But most people always discreetly pass them some money.

Please don’t get me wrong. Tip all you want. Just don’t deny some mercy to that bedraggled face that just pushed itself through your window.

Or if you’ve got lots of money to spare, and want to be that nice person we all so earnestly strive to be, give money to everyone who needs it. Just don’t leave out the people that matter.


Kertz said...

Well... well let me start with something funny. I was thinking maybe you have updated your blog, so I, expecting my memory to be sharp, typed :D

Then went back and found that it was 'found'

Ok.. not so funny :)

Now I'l try to be serious. You just wrote about something which I almost think everyday but never took the time to write. So it felt good reading yours.

Your father's part was true, there does exist racket in most of the cases. So I would agree to the first point made by your father, not to give money, as it would make the 'lords' happy! But lets try to think the other way, these so called 'lords of beggars' should have kept some benchmark. Like bring Rs.50 a day or get tortured! Now would that shake the hearts?

Ok, lets keep that aside I'll come back to that in the end. Now your point, lets keep all the money we waste as tip and give them to those sad faces. Let me confess, last new year, my resolution was to not waste 100s of Rs. for stupid coffee, while half of the population in this world is struggling for food! Unfortunately the resolution lasted 4 days, just like my many other 'be good' resolution. But I had an argument with my father to justify this, but well that would be totally a different topic, if you are interested we can discuss later.

So getting back to it, now we are saving money for the beggars in the street. Hmm... this would make the 'lords' happy, but well they might escape the torture. But again lets think the other way around. the 'lords' get happy and they get greedy. They recruit more kids, and mothers to the streets. Now where will you go for money to satisfy them?

Trouble again! Well none of the two solution you put really solves the issue. It might for some moment, or might give a personal satisfaction. But is that what you really want?

So we are back to square one. Now what are we supposed to do? We can not give money, as it would make the 'lords' happy, nor we can not give money as they will get tortured. This is exactly the reason why I never wrote about this. There is no solution unless one gets ready to walk to the streets and help them out to build a better life. Its not your money that they really want, but a path to walk and someone to hold them on the way. Do you have the time for it?

kicking.and.screaming said...

Funny, Kertz.

No really, thanks for coming back. I dont update this as much as I would like, because no 'friends' check this out. Heh.

You should take the time to write about it.

I dont clearly understand your arguments, but I will try anyway.

My point was not that we waste money tipping, and should give it to the needy. My point was that we do it in excess, a lot of the time. Either to look good to the girl youre having dinner with, or the girl at the next table, or even the waitress. Thats hypocrisy. We dont care for the waiter. If we did, we would also automatically care for the beggar. And we would make the decision, about who needs the money more. We already know the answer to that one.

I will never drink coffee at one of these various cafes we have all over the country. You should quit. Its just coffee. Unfortunately, there's also a culture associated with it. Hm, should blog. Sure, tell me about your argument with the dad. Great things come out of arguments with the dad.

No no no... the lords are already greedy. There is no way they can get 'greedier'. The fact that they can recruit street kids, to earn them money like this, means they are already at the lowest rung of the morality ladder. They cant get any lower. So, I dont agree.
Besides, the can get greedier, but I dont think it will significantly affect the issue, because there is only so-much that can be extracted from a day of begging.

I made my 2 choices clear. Of course the lords will be made happy. But the children can perhaps escape some torture too, by having something to report back with.
This is not a long term solution. This is not the solution that will save the country. But in a country where nothing else seems to be happening (and I have my doubts about how much CAN really happen), as a citizen, with not a lot to spare, I suggest using my change.

Kertz said...

So Mickey Sugarless, let me make it a little more clear. There was really no argument here.

I actually agree with the points you made, but what I'm trying to say is...

I don't know if you have heard this story? It used to come in the the children's magazines. I love children's magazines, I still read them, its hell lot better than classic novels :p

The story is. Long long ago (lol I love to begin the story like that :)) there lived two brothers, Lin and Yang. They were so poor they didn't even have money for daily meals. But they worked hard and made a fortune from fishing. Once they were in their early twenties, they were among the richest in the village. One day an old beggar came to their house. The elder brother opened the door and was so sad seeing him in such a situation. He gave him some money, food and clothes. The beggar was so happy he thanked the elder brother and walked away. After a few weeks, the same beggar came again to their house. But this time the younger brother opened the door. He was so angry to see the same beggar again! He took him to the river and gave him a fishing gaff. Then showed him how to catch fish. Once the beggar was able to catch some fishes, he told him not to ever come again begging. Years passed by, and one day the two brothers were walking through the market and suddenly they found a crowd in an area. They saw a man giving away gifts on his birth day. They were shocked to see that the man was the same old beggar. He was almost 10 times richer than them. When the 'old beggar' saw the brothers he came out and asked them to be his guest. He gave Yang, the younger brother a fish made of gold and said

"I would have remained a beggar, if not you showed me a way to live."

Thats the story, I'm bad in story telling :D But I think you got the morale of the story.

"Never help a beggar to find a way to live, he might get bigger than you!" :P Nah, not really, I know you understood what I wanted to say.

Your solution as you already said is not a long term solution. This brings me back to the support you gave to switching off the light! I would have preferred 100 men realizing the need for saving energy than a billion switching off the light blindly. The same way I would have preferred 10 kids finding a way to live rather than giving money to a thousand, which in fact goes to the 'lords'!

Just a difference in perspective, you might be right in your own way, but even I like to believe I'm right. But the problem is your part is easy to implement while mine is quite hard and I can never get off my lazy *** to change the world.

Now, about the coffee. I know I don't have to drink a cappuccino with cream topping to stay alive. But the question here is the difference between necessity and luxury. Thats a pretty wild topic to discuss. But before I would like to put forward an argument I would like to ask a few questions. Probably I would like to have a one to one argument on it, that might be more interesting. :)

keep posting, I will definitely read them, but sadly I might not fall in your specified criteria! :p

kicking.and.screaming said...

I call any exchange of different opinions, an argument. It doesnt mean I'm angry etc.

" Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. "
I believe thats what you were trying to say :).

Ok the 'light' thing, I ignored, thinking you would have figured it out, but Im going to go back there and do it now. Or maybe Ill clear it up below.

Sir, you have stated the solution and the problem in your own comment.
Giving 100 men the fish, is easier than teaching 10 men TO fish, and expecting them to keep up with it.
Its easier for me to give it to them, because to teach them, I need help(in the form of the Govt, or ordinary citizens). But most people are 'too lazy to get off their asses' to do it.
There see?

I want to teach them to fish. Believe me. And it definitely features in my plan for my life. But since I cant do it just yet, I give them my extra fish. Get?

Kertz said...

Yeah, yeah that was what I intended to say :P

Madam, Thats really the worst idea! Give them the extra fish and they will eat and get fat and lazy! And on one fine day when you ask them to learn how to fish, with a sarcastic smile they will tell, can't you just give us the fish? Why should we learn fishing?

I was just trying to prove my point, forget it. Its a good idea, and I hope you are successful in it. Give them the fish but when you run out of fish, if you are still not able to teach them how to fish, what would you do?

kicking.and.screaming said...

Ive made my points. Im not going to trivialize this.

Chittz said...

An interesting point, and well argued. Found the discussion above as interesting.

It's a simple law of human nature. No one does anything for nothing. Everyone expects some rewards. Just depends on the type of person.

Person A gives out loose change to starving kids and gets the rush out of illusion they've made the world a better place. They also believe pity makes the world go round.

Person B doesn't give out the change, but feels superior in knowing what the right thing to do is, but never quite gets around to doing it. Quite intellectual this lot are, and will rationalize any argument.

Person C actually does something, and gets a tremendous high from a sense of moral superiority over A and B.(albeit, frustration also included in the package) They get to smirk from the sidelines every time A and B get into an argument.

Nevertheless, my deep respect to all those people who fall under the last category.


Oh, I'm Type B. And your blogs been bookmarked.

kicking.and.screaming said...

@ Chittz

Hello, and welcome. Some strong opinions you have here.

I dont completly agree with your descriptions of A and C and am saddened to see youre a B.

But thanks for dropping in, and for bookmarking. I check you out now.