A point of view

As I did my groceries before I headed home this afternoon, I saw a couple of sights that I didn’t want to forget.

A beggar sat at a street corner, eating his meal on a scrap of paper. And beside him sat a stray dog. As dirty, skinny and cold as himself. Except for a bit of sack tied around the dog’s belly to keep him protected from the chilly Delhi winter, looking just as loved as any other pet dog in a winter coat. And then I noticed the beggar sharing his meagre meal with the dog, throwing him scraps. I guess a dog really is every man’s best friend.

A little further up a mother and daughter caught my attention. I have no idea what they were waiting for, but they did seem to be biding time. The little girl stood on her mother’s feet, her arms wrapped around her mother’s belly. And the woman was singing softly, swaying from side to side, almost dancing, taking little steps. The world rushed past them, bustling on, getting their work done. And there they were, caught up in their own special mother-daughter moment, just dancing. I felt my heart contract with longing for my own two babies, right then. And my dawdling feet sped up to rush home to them.

And as I reached the car finally, a young beggar girl walked by. She couldn’t have been more than 10. A child’s teeshirt barely covered her, giving her no respite from the cold. A pair of too loose jeans clung to her hips, showing more skin than they should have. Young curves on display. And all around us, lascivious stares. I wondered how long she’d stay safe. And then I saw the blank look in her eyes and I wondered if it was already too late.

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120 thoughts on “A point of view

  1. i remember this one foggy winter night in delhi, years ago. i was all wrapped up in layers and layers of woolens and had jacket over that even. i had a scarf to cover my ears and neck & and i was inside a car. we stopped at a signal, and there was a little boy ahead of us, wearing nothing but shorts. he didn’t say a word. he just stood there, staring at the car in front of us, telling us what mere words can never covey.

    i’ll never forget that boy.

  2. and yet u didn’t do anything for them…u just walked away thinking of yourself.
    You didn’t even have the humanity that the begger had in sharing his meal with a hungry animal.
    You didn’t think to ask the little girl if she is ok…if she needs to get somewhere to be safe…away from those “lascivious stares”.
    well done on blogging about your selfishness.

    • Dear Divya,
      Such is life – full of sad sights and you can’t always stop and feed every beggar you see on the streets and rescue every child you see on the road – no matter how kind hearted you are. Do you live in India? In that case you probably have a house full of stray dogs and beggars and little children – or else you have no grounds on which you can question me with such utter rudeness. In fact, you are probably Mother Teresa πŸ™‚ If you don’t live in India – you have no right telling me how to handle life here.

      Do tell me why you feel I need to justify what charity I do, or explain myself, to an aggressive stranger such as yourself.
      A very bewildered
      MM

      • i’m sure this divya is not from india. it is funny, actually, to see her get so worked up like this. maybe, when i was 16, i might have felt the same way. maybe, if i never lived in india, i might have felt the same way. maybe. I don’t think she realizes what she says.

        • if you have lived with such sights everyday, you know you cannot help them all.

          i agree that only someone not living here (and im adding Pakistan to this) can possibly make an assumption like this- “yet you didnt stop to help”

          divya do you know the number of people who actually dont even NOTICE these sights? atleast somewhere in the conscience of the people who do, a resolve to make something better gets strengthened and while we may not stop to help THAT one particular beggar, we may do a hundred other things that ensure that this state of affairs ends soon.

    • Divya…welcome to the selfish world!…how is Pandora? all izz well?

      oh! btw, let us know what you would do in such situations when it arises in Pandora? we will apply the same…

      come on! get a life…how many have you saved? how many have you brought them to safe zone? please do let us know…

    • Divya, I’m really upset. You are rude, condescending and patronizing.

      I don’t know MM, neither have we met in life nor I care about meeting her. But I’ll just say you have no right to judge and comment on a fellow human being in this manner.

      For all you know, MM might be someone who could be giving more love and warmth to people around her in one day than you can in your entire sorry life.

      Talk’s always cheap (rather free), so get over yourself and get a life. Let your actions do the talking rather than your insulting words.

      PS: How many strays do you feed each day? And how many little beggar children have you adopted till now? I’d love to visit your animal shelters and children’s homes and extend all the help I can. Do let me know.

      PPS: MM, I’m sorry for this outburst. The cold is killing, the fog is depressing, its a dull day at work, I haven’t got my cup of tea yet, and this comment was the last straw! Couldn’t help it.

    • Hi Divya

      I dont like to ever defend MM, infact some of her defenders outright bug me.

      BUT come on, the post is about THOSE people, and if she posted about what she did (or did not do about them), the post would have been about HER. And it’s nice to read about others as well.

      Even if she DID do anything about them, i am just happy it’s not reflected in this post. Sometimes what is not said is what lends a story charm.

      My two bits.

      ————–

      MM, very sweet post.

  3. The last one.. it made my heart stop. I wish that it was not true, but in all practicalities, it should be. Tired of the system and really donot know any longer how to react to child abuse- sexual or otherwise.

  4. And that is why I left India. How does one teach their children humanity when one is ‘forced’ to ignore it on a daily basis? What message does one give ones children when one is ‘forced’ to ignore the ‘beggar’ children on the other side of the car window?

    Admittedly this may not be the optimal response, but this was the motivation in my case.

    And it is may be for this reason (that there are so many who do not have a voice) that all of us have the duty to make our voices heard in whatever matter we best can.

    • //How does one teach their children humanity when one is β€˜forced’ to ignore it on a daily basis//

      Humanity to beggars does not necassarily mean parting with your cash. My grandpa, with whom I travelled a lot in Mumbai locals from a tender age, had very firm views on begging, especially the kids. Since he did not see any sense in giving them money, he always carried a couple of packets of Parle-G & potato wafers with him whenever he travelled. Come any urchin & he would part with a few of both & they would take it gratefully. This habit of his has rubbed off on me. I don’t remember the last time I doled out money to any beggar but one always can always do this rather than ‘ignore’ πŸ™‚
      Also, I know this is a simplistic approach & there’s only so much one can do in a city teeming with millions like Mumbai, but it’s a drop in the ocean nonetheless

        • @ Amit ..so that’s the reason why you left the country ?? ! I think you are the worst of us , running away somewhere were you can’t see or do anything about it ..so long as you can ”teach humanity” to your family in theory, its a bliss to be in denial.

  5. Woah. (@Divya’s comment)

    Some people huh MM? Ah well, just ignore! πŸ™‚

    Anyways, the last one.. the little girl..your last line…the reality and the brutality of it just made me shudder.

    • I’d have ignored her babe, but it just seemed like she was begging for attention. I figured I should give it to her after having been accused of neglecting other beggars today :p

        • *bows* I aim to please. She wanted answers. I gave her some. On a more serious note, I think people sometimes get over zealous. Journalists observe. Photographers record. Everyone has and their little niche. We’d all love to do something, but all of us CANT humanly do everything for everyone who needs help. that would mean a world out there would stop recording or observing for fear of being held responsible.

          • And the thing is that in your case, the instances you mentioned, at least the man had something to eat and at least the little girl had something to wear. So the question of you doing something for them doesn’t really arise cos they at least have that much. There are thousands more out there who dont even get food on a daily basis or have clothes to wear even. And this is where I agree with you that you CANNOT possibly go around helping everyone who needs it.

          • I used to find these sights heart-wrenching when I had just returned to India…just squirm in the car and try and take out some change and hand it over to them or something…but now that I have lived in India for 2yrs, I totally get what you’re saying…you just can’t do enough for all of them…and then you just tend to become a sad and resigned observer…
            Also I live in Pune, and I read that the govt. is really trying hard to rehabilitate the street dwellers by trying to give them a job and get their kids to schools…you won’t believe, but apparantly they’re resisting it! they like it better to beg than to work for money! I find it hard to believe, but a whole lot of beggers do look healthy enough to do jobs…I only feel sorry for the kids, its not their choice.. and after seeing slumdog, I constantly wonder if the women carrying the babies are their real mums at all?

          • so…Divya seems obviously a little naive or something or shes just new here or she wouldnt have said what she did. Question is, why is everyone giving her so much bhaav yaar? You know…like Mumbai lingo for attention/importance?! Who cares…you responded to her, that’s all the press she needed :p

  6. MM – this post tugged at my heartstrings . Its one of your best and Im not going to forget it in a hurry .

    @Divya – Just as MM need niot advertise her charities and the forms they take , I’m interested in what you would have done .Asked the child if she was okay and given her a home ? She and a million other street children of either sex who are regularly abused sexually?
    Where is the selfishness in her post I wonder ? Please elucidate.

  7. This is sad and what is sadder that is not an isolated, one-off case. Everywhere you turn around, you see similar cases.

    Divya: We all do what we can. But the problem is systemic. And its unreasonable to expect overnight miracles. But, as a country, I think we are getting there.. there is more prosperity than there was 10 years ago, and wealth trickles down..Anyways, if you are a part of a charity, please do put the details in this space, I am sure MM won’t mind this at all and will be happy to give your cause extra visibility..

  8. The other day we passed by a man in rags lying in the middle of the street, by the divider. I have wondered so many times since whether I should have stopped, tried to help – whether there was something I could have done.

    • Unmana – I think it says something for those of us who see poverty around us and still notice it. Are still sensitised to it. What charity you do is not my business, and vice versa, but I think most of us know which of us are the type to give to charity. that said, we can only really help if we have a long term solution. Rs 10, 100 or even 1000 wont go far. And how many of us have the means to collect and take home every such case? We do what we can, the rest… well, it hurts, but there’s little else we can do

      • Much anger we sense in Divya. If channelised properly to good it can lead.

        The question from ten so far is what can we do? In some ways nothing and yet in some ways much.

        At the most individual level cultivate the quality of humanity. The first chance to practice this lies in the ambit of ones home. Be kind, considerate and generous to ones maids, domestic helpers, drivers and sundry others who are economically less fortunate. If we get a 20% raise, a 20% increase in our maids pay is something we can consider. Rupees 200 may get us only a pizza but means much more to those who have much less.

        Instill in ones helpers the idea of equality. As you wish to be treated by your superiors at office, so treat your helpers at home.

        Celebrate happy occasions in your life with contributions to those less fortunate. A humble cheque to your favourite charity can go a long way. On your children’s birthdays buy and release into freedom local species of birds.

        Be a specialist in any one particular area and contribute to public life

      • There are no easy solutions. I never give money to beggars because that’s not something I want to encourage, and the ten rupees I’ll give won’t go far. But oh, I feel so privileged and guilty, sitting in my car and shaking my head at them.

  9. Ouch, at the post but double ouch at Divya. Were you always taught to be this rude?
    I see the pile of unused woollens I have and it leaves me guilty. I hope to get them sent to a clothes collection drive, this weekend. Disturbing, but thought provoking post.

  10. The last line MM … the last line is tearing me apart … I think these are situations we feel so helpless … can’t possibly set right everything for everyone 😦

  11. I’ll stick my neck out and say two things:

    1. People are too abundant to be valued in our country
    2. We aren’t as easily satisfied as our grandparents. I, for one, won’t be happy until I have the dough to study in the UK. I try not to think about how many homeless Indians that would feed.

      • Absolutely, totally and comprehensively incorrect. Sorry to put it so strongly. We do not value people not because we have too many of them, but because we have not transformed them into anything valuable.

        So many of the decorations (potholders, vases etc) which MM creates come from raw material which would be otherwise treated as scrap. MM adds value and only then do they become something nice.

        You, I and others and other commentators on this blog are valuable only because of our education and nothing else.

        So the fault lies not in the number of people but the fact that we have failed (miserably) to educate them. And the fault for this is not because we have a large number of people but because we had our priorities miserably wrong.

        For 40 years the state tried to do everything. What happens when you have no priorities? Everything is done superficially with third-rate results. And this is for all of us to see.

        Both larger countries than ours (China) and smaller (Sri Lanka) have much higher literacy rates because for them this mattered. In our feudal democracy we were more interested in giving people fish rather than teaching them to fish.

        Things are changing but is the pace of change fast enough?

        I think MM and others understand the value of education at a subliminal level. But it is actually at the front and center of human development.

        The foundation of every state is the education of its youth – Diogenes Laertius (philosopher)

    • It is good not to be easily satisfied. Our grandparents did not have too many choices. We can change our lives through the strength of our efforts.

      Go forth to UK. Study hard and well. Prosper materially and otherwise and share what you gain by the toil of your brow.

      The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. – Winston Churchill

    • Suki hit the nail on the head, We have too many people to value them. My heart breaks every time I see a homeless child or an old person shivering in the cold. My family gives away old wollen clothes when we no longer need them. If it was within my ability and power to do so, no one will have to be homeless, no child will have to go humgry. As much as every drop counts, if we all do something, it won’t make a dent. And it is not just a problem with the system (of course if we had a perfect govt, it would arrest everyone who begs with a child and would find a way to rehabilitate the children), the people are the biggest problem. A married couple that can barely feed itself has 5 kids. Really? Everyone wants many kids, but if you bring them into the world only to let them starve or die out in the cold, can you blame the govt? Can you blame your unlucky stars? I would love to have many kids too, but I know I cannot afford to give them a good life if I give in to my selfishness. Most homeless people you see out there, have the capacity to earn a honest living. But when you have begging unions (or whatever they are really called) why work for money? When you have a wife slaving as a maid in 5 different houses, why not spend the entire day drinking and gambling away all her money? The truth is, the first responsibility people have is to themselves and to their family. Every single one of us. And yes, we should help out every which way we can (esp those who can’t help themselves, like children and old people). Sometimes all the money in the world cannot change a person’s situation, it is way deeper than that. Especially in a country like India where the average person prefers to live under a canopy of taboos and superstitions instead of bettering the life of their children. Where people have all the time energy in the world to destroy public property (because some dumb policitician has a personal agenda) instead of trying to work hard for their family. (As always, my thoughts are all over the place, I need to take a class on organizing my thoughts).

      And Divya, you can make the comment about taking the little girl away from lascvicious stares, if you have done it yourself. If you have ever bought a meal for someone because they looked hungry. If you have ever brought a stranger home to give them shelter. I’m sure you are a nice person (and I’m not being sarcastic) but, you really came off as a jerk back there. If you have a big heart (and a fat wallet) that allows you to help every single person in need. Good for you, go out there and do what has to be done. Don’t judge people and for God’s sake, dont be so self righteous about it.

  12. I can actually almost picture the scene(s). How sad but true.
    @Divya: Criticism is constructive if it is followed up by practical solutions (and as far as I can make out, MM is open to that). Otherwise it only highlights your negativity which all of us can do without.

  13. the toughest part is answering questions which kids raise when they see such a sight.

    My young cousin bro, only 2, was in the car with me when a horde of young beggar kids surrounded it at the red light, asking for money to eat. After giving some money to a few, we had to ask the rest to leave since we obviously did not have enough cash for all.My bro turned towards me, all teary eyed, and asked, “How will the others eat?Will someone else give something?”

    I don’t know if anyone else did.I don’t know if all of them had something to eat that day.

    But much as i dread answering his questions, I dread the day when he will also begin of take it as a part of a reality we can’t change, much as we would like to.

    • yes. its hard to explain. and i recall, about a year or two ago, when the brat suddenly realised the plight of beggar children, he burst into tears at a signal saying – i dont want them to be hungry and dirty.

      i was shocked because he’s grown up around this in delhi and i had somehow assumed he’d be immune to it.

      • I know how that is. There are so many of these unfortunates around. I sometimes give money to one of them at traffic signals, especially if there was a child sleeping in their arms, Then there was this news item in the TOI about a nanny to the child of an MNC couple. This woman would drug the child after the parents left for work and rent out the baby to some beggars for that extra ‘sympathy’. I knew about children being stolen for this purpose, but this was extremely shocking. After that I am not so quick in giving any money to these people, even though I feel sorry. It really hurts.

  14. Very true MM, thats the sad state of affairs. And it annoys me too that most of the times its beyond our capabilities. As you mentioned one cannot help each and every other suffering child in the street when there are scores of them around us. You are right to say that some of us are atleast sensitive to these issues around us which sadly is a very minor percentage.

  15. I think one is “aware” of these realities… and whenever I witness something like scene 3, or scene 1, I feel extremely guilty…Something in my heart tells me that I could do something if I really really wanted to… but I am also painfully conscious of the fact, that maybe I just don’t want to badly enough… 😦

    It is really difficult to look beyond one’s own day to day struggles. I wonder if there is anything one can do, something tangible and something that is workable.

    • i’ve realised that the best kind of things, are

      1) help with educating street kids either in your own home or a neighbouring park. Education helps lift them out in a way money cannot.

      2) give to an NGO or something. it works far better than just giving them a huge amount of money that wont last.

      and yes, we all have our day to day struggles which cannot be dismissed. charity does begin at home

  16. @ Divya – Wow! Setting new heights in being rude huh

    @ MM – Personally, I just wanted to stop with the mom and daughter and imagine myself there. The other 2 sights are so painfully common 😦

    • I was just going to post that link and scrolled down to see if I was going to duplicate. It unnerves me to look into the eyes of the little children on the road ever since I watched the ted talk!Life goes on!

    • Sunitha Krishnan… the bravest woman, no, person I have ever heard of! But not everyone can be a GREAT person like Sunitha Krishnan. I know that I may never be able to become one!

      IMHO, overrating normalcy certainly doesn’t make me feel pleasant! But, condemning people and writing them off guilt for not being a mahatma is neither great, nor normal! In fact, it is offensively ridiculous!

  17. The last line – it is nightmarish thought, and I know it is a reality for hundreds of children in our country. Once I heard such stories from colleagues in my previous organization, about what street kids go through, that I could not think about anything else for a long time. It is scary!!

    And I think it was a befitting reply you gave to the lady above. We should all ask OURSELVES first what we have done to ease suffering. After that, the need to ask others will not arise.

  18. There is so much visible suffering and misery ‘out there’. And so much that exists in so many lives that we are not even aware of. I guess we can only do what we can, as much as we can. And yet, there is love,joy and compassion in the lives of some of the poorest of the poor. God bless.

    • very true Dipali. Sometimes I think we’re rather arrogant in our assumption that there is no joy in the lives of the poor. And also in the misconception that material comforts bring joy. Although they do ease the path

  19. Every other beggar child I witness on the streets makes me wonder where they could’ve been if properly fed, clothed and educated. One reason I’m still thinking about having a baby is because so many others out there are longing to be loved and taken care of. But I know I can’t give my love to each one of them and it sucks. And I don’t give money to the beggar kids because at the back of the mind I get this image of a real slum-dog scene happening. And the poor little girl that you saw, I’m sure you thought of her for a long time after you left the scene and you must have had half a mind to return and give her some decent clothes. Or so I feel. I have that kinda image of you in my mind.
    And now I’m feeling I’m all talk and no deed. Sigh. I should just shut up.

    • About 5 years ago, after I had the Brat, I realised I no longer fitted into most of my woollens. So the OA and I piled them into the backseat of the car and every time we saw beggar kids we lowered the window and handed them my lovely sweaters. They put them on delightedly – and after the light changed and we drove on, I turned back and saw them quickly take it off so that they could shiver and look pathetic and earn more. I was sad – simply because I realised that this was their life. They HAD to beg and no matter what I gave them, they would have to hide it and earn more.

      Unless you can actually take them off the streets and take full responsibility, theres no point. The money you give goes to their bosses. Not to them.

      • So I wasn’t wrong afterall in imagining you returning to the needy to help. And yes you’re right, I wonder what will make the situation improve. I know it is employment, but how many of them really want to earn (not the kids), without begging? Isn’t it a convenience factor for them too? One more reason not to pity them.

      • Wow MM, kudos to you for doing that yaar! No seriously. Not many people would think of driving down the road and giving away their stuff like that.

        Not that you care or not that it matters, but I hope Divya is reading all of this.

  20. I remember a little boy, barely two, barely dressed, at a traffic signal once. Somebody gave him some money from one of the cars, ans suddenly his face just transformed with a look of pure joy and he skipped away happily looking like he would burst with happiness. Until he reached the divider where one of the older kids, also begging, snatched the money away from him and walked away. The signal changed just then and the bus I was in lurched forward and away. This was years ago, I never saw that little boy again but I’ll never be able to forget him.

    • That’s one of the reasons I occasionally give to street children. If I get something unexpected I feel happy. If someone on the opposite side of the car window is expecting one or two rupees I expect that they will also feel happy if they get a fiver or a tenner.

  21. That was so heart-wrenching, MM. That chilling tale of the little beggar girl (who I so hope has not been abused yet, and finds her way to a shelter before someone gets their way with her) was especially hard-hitting right after that warm and fuzzy mother-daughter incident. Probably it was to bring us face-to-face with the harsh realities of the world.

    I feel so helpless at times. There is so much poverty and such destitution around. What do we do?

    The earthquake in Haiti made my blood chill. Its become a ghost town, literally. And our politicians are worrying themselves sick over how lingerie and spas can ‘corrupt’ us women. Not a single paisa of aid sent by concerned people and organisations has reached Haiti, nor will it ever.

  22. That was scary.

    @Divya: I would really love to know what you would have done in the same situation. It would be nice to know how many homeless you have given shelter to, how many you have fed and how many streetkids you have kept away from the wolves.
    Have you never heard of the saying that when you point one finger, there are three more pointing back at you.
    As for MM, I can vouch for the fact that she is amongst the few folk who are quick to respond with help whenever one has sent in an appeal for help for folks who need it.

    • MM, very sad post, this.

      There are a couple of families living on the footpath outside my office. Lots of toddlers staggering around. Last winter I gave them a couple of bagfuls of Rahul’s old clothes. Only saw one tee on a little boy one day. God knows what happened to the rest. So I’ve never given them anything else. But it does feel strange to walk past them carrying my warm, clean and healthy child in my arms while their naked, dirty children sit on the footpath.

      I don’t know what the answers are.

      BTW, good to see the trolls are here already. Keep me from getting too senti.

  23. Felt a lump in my throat. Yes! these are common sights. Its a remainder for us to count our blessings everyday.

    For those who think that most people look at the poor lot feel sad and walkaway, let me tell you getting them out of that situation is a struggle in itself. I have had a first hand experience. All they want at that point of time is a meal/clothes. they are not willing to work towards a long term freedom from their situation. Easy money, laziness, complacency and the list is endless.

    For the few who are willing to get out, help does come, agreed in its own time and sometime its too late. Given our population, it’s easier said than done.

  24. these are the kind of images you just cant ignore and shake off…

    while what charity each one does is completely his/her own business I have come across people who claim to not have 1k to give to a decent charity when they earn a lakh a month! and its difficult not to be judgmental! 😦

    M recently went for a CSR thing at one school run for slum kids by one guy. He teaches them in English. he says that if they have to prosper and fir they should be given an equal chance.

    but bigger corporates and govt here wont fund him unless he taught them in kannada! how unfair is that MM?! 😦

    yet at the same such individual efforts make me feel a little better and we try to rid of our guilt by trying to help them…

    • this state and language thing is going to be the death of us 😦

      as for the charity and judgment, very often people dont give to the poor but support poor relatives, help pay for a house for their driver, anything. I dont believe in giving only to structured NGOs etc necessarily. Sometimes charity is done in forms that we dont realise which is the best form of charity i think. that said – if they’re clearly stating that they dont give a rupee, well, again, its their money i guess…much joy may it bring them

      • oh yeah! charity isnt about just giving to NGOs. these are people i know who dont do anything. the constant refrain is we dont even have enough for ourselves, how can we give others… sigh! but yes, may the money bring them joy! πŸ™‚

        and yes the politics of language is just pathetic! and one need not mention that the kids of decision makers rarely study at a local medium school! gah!

        • I heard this story one time from this super smug cow about how her sister ran an orphanage and took all the money that people donated and became rich on it. She had the gall to tell my me that its a great way to make quick easy money.I wanted to bash her over the head with something really heavy but instead, I went home and cried that people can steal from orpans and they only get fatter and richer.

          Too much commenting today. sorry πŸ™‚

  25. Regarding pt.3, I always, always wonder about young street girls. On the drive to my office here, at one particular signal I see a girl almost everyday. She wears a ratty frock, has a baby at her hips & begs at my window & I suspect that she might be the mother. It’s heartbreaking, really. When little girls from sheltered & cherished backgrounds are not safe anymore, do the homeless ones even stand a chance?

  26. Hi MM, have been a silent reader of your posts for a longgg time – close to maybe 2 years when i googled about “karvachauth” and found something u had blogged abt. i read all ur posts at work that day. Missed out on reading ur blog when u went private – am so glad i can now read ur blogs again…I am not the type to comment usually but the BLog was really heart rendering…Also the reply to Divya – was the icing on the cake…Come on divya answer…we are waiting!

  27. They can’t keep away, them trolls, eh?
    I agree that giving to NGOs is better. Several small efforts like mine get combined and have greater impact!

  28. 😦
    I ve often felt helpless when I ve seen such situations.. and asked myself the questions Divya has taken the liberty to ask of you.:(

    But you know.. the hurt at seeing them like this settles down after sometime.. and then another Divya pops up in my head and says.. ahh.. wat drama you did.. crying and all

    With many faces and places.. you learn to defend yourself against yourself.

  29. @Divya – I wonder what you have done… or can do in fact.

    Every time I see a small girl on the streets I wonder how safe they are and whatever we do.. we are just not going to reach each and every one of them.

  30. Pingback: Blog posts discussing current issues in India

  31. I think Divya was rude but she raises an interesting point: Does the writer recording the event have greater responsibility than the readers of the event? Or can we say that the writer has done his or her job by the mere fact of generating awareness?

    I think its interesting that whenever someone writes about social issues, there’s invariably a commenter who asks: And what are YOU doing about it? There’s an assumption there that writing and not ‘doing’ anything (or at least not reporting that one did something) is worse than not writing. Which is because by writing you at least generate awareness but by not writing you do nothing.

    In short, I think MM may or may not have helped. She may or may not have written about helping. If she did help, that was a bonus. But the fact of generating awareness itself is a huge step.

    As for me, thank you for reminding me of this – as someone who lives in the US, its easy to forget poverty (at least in its most helpless form) does exist. My cheque to the NGO I support will be in the mail today. 15 days late and possibly later if I hadn’t read this. So yes, Thank You.

    n!

    • πŸ™‚ yes. I didnt want to get into that but remember the National Geographic photographer who clicked the award winning pic of the vulture and the starving kid? people who record are well, doing their job by recording. you could argue that photographers in a flood should stop to help, but well, they’ve recorded a chunk of history for you that you’d have missed if they put down their cameras and picked up an oar. not saying thats not a good thing, but hell.. you get my point.

  32. “Which is because by writing you at least generate awareness but by not writing you do nothing”

    Erratum: It should be “which is absurd because…”

    n!

  33. very heartfelt. The last one brought tears to my eyes. I could almost see her through your words. Makes us want to hold on to and appreciate every little pleasure that comes our way.

  34. Seeing little children on the streets always breaks my heart, but what further upsets me is when some of them have the lost and blank look in their eyes that you mentioned. I once gave a kid (who often wandered around my college) some money for food, later I saw him buy glue from the local Xerox shop to get high. I was so beyond depressed.

    I love the way you described the mother and daughter :)) I am particularly missing my mum and this just made me miss her a little bit more πŸ™‚

  35. πŸ™‚ MM you are one famous lady, so many to defend you, jokes apart. Divya was really rude I think she is of that kind who gets cheap kicks out of all this attention.

    It might sound selfish but when I hear/read/see such things it makes me count my blessings,in turn motivates me to contribute something towards NGO’s. So keep it coming.

    • πŸ™‚ well its good to know that even if there is a world out there, ready to go for the jugular, there are a few who saw the post for what it is instead of looking for something to bitch about! and yes, its this sort of thing that makes me count my blessings too.

  36. If anyone does want to do something for a Delhi based organisation that works with kids like these, here is a link to a very worthwhile one:

    http://www.projectwhy.org/

    MM, your post reminds us to do what we can, so recording remains important, though some of us have become immune to words and images as well 😦

  37. this is somewhat unrelated but i read an article where a street kid who was given a meal by a passerby refused it because
    it wasn’t chinese food!!! so much for ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ha?

    and i agree with n…raising awareness is a huge step in itself.

  38. I was just thinking yesterday that no one was rude anymore on your blog. No masala! But yes, jokes apart, its a bad situation. Mine asked me ‘Why dont you give money to beggars Amma?’ – I really dont know how I can answer her question. Fact remains that I don’t give money to beggars. The arguments are the usual ones. But for me there is so much confusion inside, which all comes out when you try to explain something to a child…

    & right now, I am not even sure about the whole education thing. I think education (defining it as the obtaining of degrees, the fattening of the resume) is a band-aid; its a postponement of the inevitable; its a chance thing. But for me, its a practical way of assuaging my guilt, so I do it. Its too painful to explain my feelings in detail…

    • thats the other thing about parenting isnt it? it makes you finally pull your thoughts out, dust them, lay them out in a row and organise them and see which ones you are hoarding for no reason and which ones actually make sense.

  39. If any of the readers are from Hyderabad and feel moved to do something, there is a good shelter for street, railway and runaway kids. It is called Balatejassu. The person you can talk with is Kabeer: +919701240266. Here’s a success story you might like. It had left me humbled and awe-struck: A brave boy’s story of strength (http://www.actionaid.org/india/index.aspx?PageID=4555). Last I had gone there, the shelter for girls was in urgent need of a TV set. You see, children’s shelters need to have incentives for kids to drop in or feel inclined to come. It is not easy to get children who have lived some time on the streets to again like a home-like place.

    Your help will be valuable!

  40. Mad Momma, Your posts certainly bring out interesting comments. I somehow believe that illiteracy is the reason for some of the problems our country faces. There are some of us who donate to NGOs which are involved in the welfare of such poor people. How many of us follow on how the NGO’s money (our donations) is being used? After all our country is a land where an organization like BCCI is also supposedly CHARITABLE. If we donate, do we follow up and ensure that the NGO uses the money donated in a proper manner? Even better, do we go to the NGO and meet the young kids (who might have ended up begging for all we know) and try and help them out in some way or the other? Personally I have seen my college friends who started taking poor young kids from very poor families under their wings, taught them some very basic courses like English, Tamil, Science etc etc and helped them pass their 10th and 12th. That I believe is a much more meaningful contribution to the society as such. You might ask, if that is the case, there are tonnes of such illiterates and beggars in our country and almost all of us have our own life’s and families to sort out in the first place. But my argument is blogging is a start. Raises awareness. Donating to NGO’s would be the next step and ensuring that the money reaches the right hands should be next up. And best of all would be the direct involvement and personal help. As far as the second comment goes whats life without reading a couple of masaaledhaar comments on Mad Mommas blog? πŸ˜›

  41. Since education is what I believe in.

    http://www.ccs.in/ccsindia/index.asp

    They seem to be at the cutting edge of policy suggestions in education and more.

    About them:

    The Centre for Civil Society is an independent, non-profit, research and educational organisation devoted to improving the quality of life for all citizens of India by reviving and reinvigorating civil society.

    But we don’t run primary schools, or health clinics, or garbage collection programs. We do it differently: we try to change people’s ideas, opinions, mode of thinking by research, seminars, and publications. We champion limited government, rule of law, free trade, and individual rights.

    We are an ideas organisation, a think tank that develops ideas to better the world. We want to usher in an intellectual revolution that encourages people to look beyond the obvious, think beyond good intentions, and act beyond activism.

    We believe in the individuality and dignity of all persons, and their right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. We trust their judgement when they cast their vote in a ballot box and when they spend their money in a marketplace. We are driven by the dream of a free society, where political, social, and economic freedom reigns. We are soldiers for a Second Freedom Movement

  42. It is heart wrenching after reading this post. Sitting in US, all I am doing is donating money to institutions like ASHA or SHANKARA, but at times I don’t know how it is utilized.

    Wish I had a magic wand that could take away all misery and worries across the world.

    I have been postponing my comments for past 2 days…don’t know why. It is just the sad feeling.

    Umm..on Divya…don’t really want to comment and feed her desire for popularity πŸ™‚

  43. Wow, I missed this! Great reply MM.

    and that is always the first thought I have when I see child and women beggars, how they must be sexually abused all the time. And the feeling of helplessness clashes with the accusing looks from my kids when I wave them past the car.

    I agree that recording these things, blogging about them, talking about them is also a contribution to making things better. Anyone who reads you or knows you will be sure you’re also contributing in your own way knows and on top of that you’re ensuring that the readers here will be finally spurred on to really do something that helps.

    Here’s a little story, we were refugees from the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, stranded without food or water and a CNN crew was covering the crowd. They interviewed my mom who demanded that they do something besides just putting us on TV. Within half an hour hot food and bottles of water appeared. Whether it was her demand, and whether it was the camera crew that got it done, I don’t know. But there lies the power of journalists. They can record and they do also help, just that they probably don’t go advertising how they help!

  44. The whole begging issue is a scandal. The kids are innocent victims who soon become passive partners in crime. I have heard of so many cases where these beggars and slum-dwellers were relocated, given homes to stay in. They quickly sell or rent them off, and are back to sleeping on the streets. It’s a way of life and they don’t see any shame in it.

    that said, if we can help out even a fraction of them change their way of life, it is worth it. a lot of good work is being done by NGOs who work with street children. Sadly I am in the US and don’t get a chance to be active in those activities beyond donating money anymore.

    Did anyone hear about that nanny in Bangalore “renting” out her employer’s baby to beg in the daytime? Yes, babies are rented out, doped (so that they don’t cry or feel hungry) for as little as 100Rs. a day. Imagine the steady income these kids generate their parents.

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