A few days ago, on our return from Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, an apparition of a girl of 10-11 years stood next to our car under the Metro lane in MG Road knocking on the window. Her right ear was cut off; blood was trickling down slowly from the open wound.
With vehicles in caught in a logjam, the girl had enough time to move from one car to another. Each time she passed by bikes or cars, she made sure her right ear was exposed. With the bleeding wound, she, like a ghost in dirty clothes, aroused spectres from Slumdog Millionaire.
The next morning, a bust-up of a racket forcing hapless children into begging in Bangalore appeared in a newspaper. The investigations revealed nothing new, except for the names of the criminals. We metro-dwellers are familiar with such routine crackdowns on the underworld where maiming of orphans and children from poor families goes on unhindered. A few days later, they are back to where they belong—roads and traffic junctions.
The city police commissioner seemed to be annoyed by the fact that Bangaloreans, on an average, give anything between 5-10 rupees to the beggars as against counterparts in other states like Bihar where alms range from 50 paise to one rupee. Since I have faced a beggar who furiously threw my one-rupee coin back on the dashboard years ago on Kasturba Road, his veiled advice will cut no ice for me. And, after the Beggars Colony episode where over 100 beggars perished in the city last year, I will think twice before suggesting that as an option to even women begging with drugged babies slung around their shoulders.
A symptom of a larger malaise
Is this all about just begging? I don’t think so. This bunch of racketeers has made a brand out of poverty and showcases it through these maimed mannequins. They inflict pain on these children and then leave us morally obligated to be generous. Each time my fingers reach for coins/rupees in my handbag, a whirl of questions and doubts whizz past my mind: Do we show generosity by giving alms to child beggars, or share complicity with the racketeers? Is it a sign of cruelty to think so long and hard over a few rupees? How many rupees make it the right amount? Who makes a worthy beggar? Shouldn’t they just get a job and end the misery for themselves and everybody else?
The trouble with being able to think to exist is each time you see human rights being violated, you realise how deep individual despair and helplessness runs. While a logical end to this tragedy seems far-fetched, what’s certain is this: mafia will don different garbs to reappear, citizens will suffer moral pangs, dilemma and frustration, but an army of child-beggars will keep hitting the roads with brand-new bleeding wounds.
Life’s back to ‘normal’… until another knock on the car window.