Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Beggars, the sad face of humanity

Beggars on the streets. Every day, as I approach the Metro station to board the train, I see at least one person; sometimes three or four.

The person I see regularly is an old man, a bit on the heavier side, bearded and fully clothed; must be in his late sixties, doesn't look crippled. He looks at me, as he must be at every one who passes by.

On some other days, I see a few more: two women in their late thirties or early forties; and two small children of around ten years. I don't know where they disappear on other days.

They are not the only ones we see in Bengaluru. According to government of India statistics, there are over four lakh beggars in India, with the highest number in West Bengal, 81,244. Karnataka, of which Bengaluru is the capital, has 12,270. This surely is a very conservative figure. There are many more who are unaccounted for.

Do give or not to give

Different people have different approaches to beggars. There are some who never ever give anything to them. I know a friend who gives a rupee to the first beggar he sees in a day. It's not that I haven't ever given them a rupee or two. But I do that very rarely, unless I am really moved. Actually, the one or two rupees that I or anyone gives, is hardly any help.

They may be on their own, or they might be part of an organised network, as some people say. I have also heard people say that some beggars aren't actually in such pathetic condition as they appear. They are just made to look like that to provoke sympathy of passersby, so that they get some money. Some people say, by giving alms to beggars you are perpetuating the social problem.

Irrespective of all that, their suffering remains the same. And, it's indeed extremely distressing to see them.

These beggars also make me think how lucky I am, to have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes to wear; physically and mentally able to work, and have a steady income to take care of myself and my family.

At another level, the sheer number of beggars has also made me sort of immune to their presence. They are just another of those unpleasant things or aberrations one gets accustomed to.

It might not be practically possible to rid the world completely of all suffering. But what could possibly be done by each one of us is to extend a helping hand, and do something substantial for someone around us, who really needs assistance.


  1. Very interesting and informative post. I rarely give money to beggars. In places like Tirupathi, if you give money to one person you are immediately surrounded by 20 beggars. Also, it is atrocious that criminal gangs crippling children and forcing them to work as beggars.

    As you said if someone really needs assistance, we should help.

    There are beggars in US also. They stand around the corner of a street with various signs like “Vietnam Veteran. Need Food”. I once told a guy I will take him to a restaurant and buy food for him. He refused. He wanted money so he can buy brandy. Some signs are laughable. One guy near my home is standing with the same sign for the past 2 years. “Money needed to make funeral arrangements for my mother”. Body is still there for the past 2 years?

    1. Thank you, SG for your detailed thoughts. It's largely for reasons that you have mentioned, I don't feel encouraged to pay beggars.

      During my visits to the US, I have seen beggars. Actually, during my visit to San Francisco in 2016, I got a feeling that I saw more beggars than during my previous visit to the city in 2008.

      Your point about people needing money rather than food is so true. Also that placard about mom's funeral, is actually hilarious.

  2. Beggars who are physically disadvantaged incapable of working or those who who are advanced in years sick and infirm. To such beggars alone one should give alms if inclined. Begging by able bodied persons and children should be discouraged. If one wants to be philanthropic, donations to charitable institutions is the preferred way.
    There is a Tamil adage பாத்திரமறிந்து பிச்சையிடு meaning give alms after judging the worthiness.
    In US where shelters and food coupens are available , it is common to see beggars begging to collect money for drugs or booze.