I'm travelling now. I'm in a train full of people. As I sit down, arrange my baggage below my seat and stare out the window, Shakira daring me to "kiss her with everyone watching" and the wind blowing on my face, I feel a tap on my shoulder. It's a lady asking me to pay her so she can bless me. I wave her away with a careless, "Please go away. I'm not interested" and look out the window. A few minutes pass and another beggar walks past, loose change clinging in a box he's carrying. As he walks past, a few people offer him a rupee or two. A generous man offered him 5 and looked around to his beaming wife, as though he gave him a corneal transplant. Again, I declined to offer any money to the beggar. I don't appreciate beggars. It's something like a principle. I don't mind buying an extra packet of "sundal" from the boy selling food in the beach, but I will just not give even 1 rupee to a beggar - whether they're old, young, hale and healthy or maimed. Does that make me heartless? I think not! India needs to learn not to promote beggary. Now I can already hear people scoffing at me, "You think everyone has the same comforts as you in life? You don't know poverty." Its true. I don't know poverty. Yet, I will be more than happy to help a person willing to make an effort to come up in life. Begging is one of the worst ways to make money. The only thing worse is probably peddling and other illegal activities (not that begging is perfectly within the framework of legal "remuneration"). I once saw a double amputee cycling with a wagon full of bags, transporting them to another place, for a living. I was sitting in a bus. We stopped at a signal and I saw someone reach out with a 5 rupee coin and offer it to him. He got offended! I was pleasantly surprised! He told her that not everyone needs to beg to make a living and that he would rather live with dignity than with money obtained through begging. Now when I can see people like this, I am only bolstered into believing that begging isn't the way to go, even for people so poor they can't afford a bar of soap. If you think helping beggars will appease your Samaritan soul, I suggest you buy them a packet of food. Don't offer them money. At least that way you're making it clear that you care but you don't like that they're begging to survive.
I didn't mean for this post to be didactic. I think its a topic for healthy debate. Let me know what you think.


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