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Monday, August 3, 2020

I Beg to Differ


To most of us, beggars are nothing more than an eyesore, but for Lucky, unsure of her age somewhere in the late 20s, heckling devotees outside a temple in south Delhi is all in a day’s work. Thankful for her defective left eye, Lucky is convinced of the adage of ‘ask and you shall receive’…
ABHAY SACHAR | Issue Dated: March 29, 2009
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I Beg to Differ It seemed like child’s play when I had started, but then everything is at that age. To people, I was a sort of an opportunity to rinse their soiled conscience, by being kind to an underprivileged kid like me. My mom, similar case as mine, had no clue about her dad. She is a sad simple woman who sits outside the same temple where her mom used to sit. I, on the other hand roam about heckling the visitors to the shrine, on sympathetic and sacred grounds. I was a fast learner of this trade and thanks to my left eye (infected since age four and now completely ineffective), I used to beat all competition, even nursing mothers! For the next five years I was the main bread earner for my family including my mom, two elder sisters and a younger brother, but as one gets older, the earnings reduce. I remember I was just seven, when an extremely generous ‘Gori’ (a foreigner) gave me a sweater, bought me fancy food and even gave a crisp five-hundred rupee currency note. My family was ecstatic, as I had earned about twenty days’ income in one! Since that day I was named Lucky and even after 17 years of living off random acts of generosity, I will consider my life living up to my name.  


As old as prostitution as a profession, the three lakh plus beggars in the country earn about Rs. 180 crores every year, according to government estimates. While poverty remains the damning factor, beggary also finds mention as the prerogative of ascetics and monks in Indian mythology.

One of my elder sisters passed away a couple of years back after falling awfully sick. The local medicine man said he cannot cure her and the other options were not feasible. My other sister has a child of her own now; she also roams about displaying her hungry baby to garner more pity. She even tried to work as a wage labourer at a construction site along with the father of the child, but the contractors either asked for identity proof or gave extremely low wages. My youngest brother thoroughly enjoys his state, he is allowed to do whatever he wants; nobody scolds him for getting lost or getting dirty. Our mother remains content as no matter what we do all day, we manage to get her the daily requirements. Our staple diet is the parshad distributed outside the temple and three cups of tea with rusk. I look forward to the religious festivals as many families put up stalls to dole out home-cooked food which I absolutely love! Sleeping is an uncomfortable and unsafe affair especially on the footpath where I sleep with my mom and brother, but it’s also the only place cops don’t say anything. The elder one with the child goes to her man’s kuccha hut to take rest. He says he wants to marry her soon but I know he would never. They all just produce kids without any concern for their future, for it works well for the women to get an extra pair of hands to beg, thus furthering their perverse legacy.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017