Who is the real fortunate?
You’ll fuss and fret through life
While they do all the living
Ruskin Bond – Slum Children at Play
‘How fortunate we are’ I sighed looking at the beggar children scuttle everywhere from person to person, car to car at the traffic signal with their hands clutched on a small shallow bowl. There were hardly some pennies, cluttering loudly, to feed them to look after them. They showed their tummies which are almost concave in appearance and their torn clothes which could not tear anymore. Shabby, dirty and stinking but nothing could dissuade their spirit, running around, burdened with only now and today. The lights turned green and all the vehicles geared up to zip away. The nameless beggar children scurried as fast as they could to the sides of the road, few with smiles and few with a blank face but none with apparent worries.
Few generously gave those beggar children some money and felt content, few gave a penny and boasted; few gave nothing and got annoyed with their regular presence at every traffic signal. No one could be blamed here. A man who works hard for a living would, without a doubt, get furious looking at the beggars, who stretch their hand out and expect to be fed every day on someone else’s hard earned money. Myriad impoverished parents shove their numerous children into the begging lifestyle and make them earn for them. They exploit their innocence and the sympathy of the crowd. Such like is the everyday scene at the traffic signal, something in erasable from daily life.
There were days my wallet used to be half empty and I was giving away money generously to these beggars because there was nothing to save, nothing could be saved out of it. Then came the season of spring in my life, my wallet grew thicker, I started saving and I had developed many basic materialistic dreams. I thought twice before I could throw away a penny to any lazy beggar. I knew that every drop had a potential to make a sea and I could not go against this comprehension.
There is sufficient reason for not giving away to the beggars; they are lazy and they are alcoholic and waste our money and so on. But I always gave a penny to a beggar who stumbled across my path, especially if I were eating. Sometimes I shared my food with them. Few were happy to grab it and few were rude to deny it. Can a beggar afford to deny anything? If so, even I have a stone heart to turn my face away.
One day I was travelling in a bus, through the hills, the trees, and the wind in my face, simply mesmerizing. Everything faded away as the bus chugged into a big bus station. The midday sun shone brightly. Suddenly everywhere there were people rushing from every direction and noise of every kind. The conductor announced the lunch break and without any choice, I opened my lunch box and started munching the sandwich which I had packed from home. I was looking around the chaos and the beauty of it. Many pedestrian hawkers clambered into the bus with the paraphernalia of food and snacks and colorful tit bits, all florally arranged in open aluminum cases slung before their chests.
Many of the other passengers bought different bits and pieces and started eating. Soon followed a beggar girl right behind the hawkers wearing almost a torn dress and started bleating at every seat. She was mute and she had a government document in some language which I could not read and half of the passengers could not read. I resolved not to give anything to her because everything about her appeared fake. In spite of my decision, I was uncomfortable simply because I was eating. The girl snaked her way from seat to seat many of them turned away their faces and shooed her away. The cucumber hawker was the last one still selling his cool cucumbers on a hot sweating bus. For an instant, I looked at him and thought I would buy a cucumber slice for that beggar girl.
Whether I took a long time to decide or it is my lack of spontaneity, I will never know, the girl got off the bus, that instant with empty hands just as the cucumber man too, at last, got off from the bus with the empty plate.
The bus pulled out of the station leaving the hawkers, the hot sun, the cucumber man and the little girl behind, growing further away every moment. For a long while during the rest of the journey, I cursed myself, for not being spontaneous in buying that slice, for the little girl. I will never know if the girl had had her lunch or she was roaming around on an empty stomach. In that scorching heat, a slice of that cucumber would have been heaven for anyone.
The girl moved on with her life, met her other beggar friends, smiled heartily and immediately climbed into another bus resuming her routine. The incident remained in my mind fresh for a few days but the girl has not got off from my mind as yet. She still snakes her way between those seats.
‘Slum Children at Play’
You’ll fuss and fret through life
While they do all the living
by Norma Moras, Saudi Arabia
Comments for the article:
Kavery, India :
Really a good topic…you have stated your views in a smooth way…humanity still rocks in dis article..really like it..
Uday Rodrigues, India :
@ Mrs. Norma: Wonferdul Atricle!!! Keep writing More!
@ Govindraj Prabhu, Canada: Mr. Govindu, Your comment speaks your personality or you have not understood, I wish…. please read the article 3 times to understand.
India is one of the countries with the highest level of children population in the world. India is also unfortunately one of the countries with the highest level of child labor problems. Though government has strict policies against child labor, the problem is still rife in India. To change this situation, many children NGOs are working hard. They contribute to the society in very noble way. They try to approach the problem of child labor in the country in a number of ways.
One of the major reasons for child labor problems in India is poverty. Poverty cannot be alleviated by just doling out money to the poor and if NGOs in India were to take the approach of giving away money in an effort to change the situation they will never over come the problem. Rather than giving them fish, what NGOs have to do is to teach them to fish. This will provide them with long term solutions. One of the contributions from the children NGOs in India is to run several social awareness programs to help business owners and shop owners realize how they hamper the growth of the country by using child laborers in their organization and in their shops.
Another reason why we have child labor problems is because of the fact that these children do not get a chance to go to school because they need to work to support their family and also because their parents do not have enough money to send their children to school.
The main purpose of existence of an educational NGO in India and in Mumbai in particular, is to offer free education to the needy children. They also cater to the slum children. They try to provide quality education for slum children through formal education and also through informal education systems. They bring to slum children the best opportunities that they will ever get. By giving them these educational opportunities, they create a bright future from them. They can apply for jobs like any other individual and improve their standard of life.
We cannot be complacent saying that these NGOs are doing a wonderful job. We also have our social responsibility to help these slum children who are in financially disadvantaged situation. Every little help in this area will bear great fruit in the future. One of the ways of helping these children is to give financial support to an educational NGO in Mumbai so that they can serve more slum children. Without enough funds they will be able to help only limited children. If they get help from the general public, they can include hundreds of children in their free educational programs.
Satish Menon, India :
I just loved this article. The way you have expressed your views, more over to see a heart of gold!!?? 🙂 Forget about human rights and child labor. There are forums to discuss and write on those issues! I really appreciate your write up. Keep writing, anything and everything will be messed up with occasions and we have festivals and celebrations almost every month to link it. There are critics all around and I hope you are matured enough to take the good critics to move ahead!!
Carol, India :
You’ve touched upon a common sentiment which we come across in our daily lives but hardly speak about. I think your article is deifinitely thought provoking moreso as Xmas is the season of giving. The more we speak about it, more the no. of enlightehened minds and more the no. of solutions. I do know many NGO’s in Bangalore who work for the downtrodden children, yet the kids who are made to beg keep mushrroming every single day. I agree that the govt. should ban child begging and we can work with NGO’s to make their life better. Maybe the media should join hands to spread the message and get the govt. to act.
Judith L, India :
What you have said is right, but you could have written this in a polite way to Norma, who has taken the pains to write this article. We (including Yourself, myself, Norma and all Indians) have to rehabilitate the children from begging and make them better citizens, so that they do not end up with antisocial elements. We can start by wirting a “Please See” note after our name in the emails we send to our friends, relatives and all that : “PLEASE DO NOT ENCOURAGE CHILDBEGGING. BY DOING SO YOU ARE HELPING ANTISOCIAL ELEMENTS THRIVE.”
Govindraj Prabhu, Canada :
This article is certainly not in good spirit; certainly not around Christmas.
I value you as a Christian.
Instead of such lazy and lengthy article/story you should have come up with some diligent solutions.
There are good NGO’s such as Child Rights and You. Please join them and suggest some ideas and also contribute.
I know of many Jesuits run institutes who pick such children from the streets and from the clutches of parents and make them better children and citizens. You should have mentioned these stories too.
Norma, you are the right fit being in Saudi Arabia to raise funds amongst Indians for Child Rights and You or any of other NGO’s of your choosing and make these kids’ lives a little better.
I am sure you will consider. Perhaps you will start an organization of your own to educate parents.
I am also sure some of these kids will be engineers and doctors and make you smile again !……this time they will certainly not ask for pennies from you.
Judith L, India :
n Child Labour, child begging should also be abolished. There should be a ban on CHILD BEGGING, WHICH IS CRUDEST FORM OF CHILD LABOUR where infants and children are either given birth or kidnapped and misused (even maimed) by cruel and heartless people. stop giving money to babies and children. where the mafia makes use of innocent and vulnerable kids for their personal gains. They even give them drugs, so that they do not leave begging. It has been clearly shown in the movie Slumdog, how the mafia operates. I urge all Indians to stop giving alms (money) to kids and children, which never goes to them in the first place and slowly this begging menance will stop.THEY ARE MADE TO BEG IN THE SCORCHING SUN, COLD AND RAINS and THE MONEY COLLECTED BY THEM IS USED BY THE SCOUNDRELS AND IF THEY ARE NOT ABLE TO COLLECT ENOUGH MONEY THEY ARE DONE AWAY WITH. Even, if these children survive somehow the girls go in the flesh trade and boys become thieves or some anti social elements. Only give food, clothing and shelter. better still you may give the money to NGOs, who will rehabilitate the innocent babies and children and finally THE SCOUNDRELS WILL STOP MISUSING INNOCENT CHILDREN FOR THEIR SELFISH GAINS. REMEMBER ALL CHILDREN ARE INNOCENT AND VULNERABLE AND CANNOT FIGHT THE CRUEL WORLD ON THEIR OWN. PLEASE STOP GIVING ALMS TO BABIES AND CHILDREN AND ALSO,TELL YOUR FRIENDS, RELATIVES WHO IN TURN SHOULD SPREAD THE NEWS.THIS IS THE ONLY WAY WE CAN SAVE OUR INNOCENT CHILDREN. NA RAHENGI BAS NA BAJEGI BASOORI.