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.