“Anna! Ondhu rupaai kodi, anna…” (Give me a rupee, brother…)
A small girl of about 10 years of age wearing a black purdah was stretching out her hand to me at a traffic signal. It was drizzling lightly in Bengaluru, after many days of intense sunshine. The child’s eyes were strikingly clear and penetrating. I’m usually at a loss in situations like this. I’m sure most of us are.
What do I do? If I give her some money, will it go to her boss, who is waiting around the corner, who will continue keeping her imprisoned for life? Will it really help her if her some money? On the other hand, if I don’t give her anything, will it help her escape this pathetic situation that she is in?
How did she get here in the first place? She is such a young child. Did her parents get into trouble, forcing her to beg for her family’s livelihood? Was she kidnapped from another state? Was she born into poverty? She did not look too worried. She had an air of confidence about her, as if she knew that somehow, the divinity in the people around her would support her in this crucial time, and she would get what she desperately needed.
Could I ask her? Would she get scared? Even if she didn’t, would I really be able to help her get out this situation? Did she want to get herself out, or was she planning to continue with this profession? Nobody in their right mind would choose to beg, if they had another choice, would they?
I did what I usually do in a situation like this – gave her some food. Today, I had a packet of groundnuts with me. I asked her if she wanted it, she nodded yes, and I gave it to her. She went to the side of the road and inspected the packet. Another child saw that something was going on, and quickly came to check. When she saw that I had given something, she came up to me asked me for something, too.
What came next, I will always remember. The girl with the groundnuts called out to her, and told her I had already given her something. “Baa illi” (come here), she told her, turned to me and said, “Naanu kodthini” (I will give). She asked her to hold out the end of her dupatta, and poured out half the groundnuts into it. She paused for a second and poured out some more, and said, “Hogi thinnu, naanu barthini” (go and eat, I’ll come soon), and pocketing the rest of the groundnut, went to the next vehicle.
What compassion, what noble virtues that child must have preserved inside her mind to do this. I hope she gets out of the situation that brought her here today.
I remember reading, when a person begs for money, and another says “I dont have any for you, brother”, who is poorer, and who is richer? There will always be questions in my mind that stop me from giving large sums to beggars on the road, just like most of you.
What I hope and pray for is that one day, sometime soon, I will be able to enable them, the ones who want to, to earn a living for themselves, provide them an easier means of eating, clothing and resting, help them help themselves, or least contribute what I can to people who are doing this today. What I did today was peanuts, literally, compared to what needs to be done yet. Most importantly, I pray to be able to find out what causes this, and help stop it, help prevent people from getting into situations where they are forced to beg. I pray for the opportunity to help in the best way I can. I hope you will join me, too.
Dr. Achyuthan Eswar
Naturopathy, Yoga and Acupuncture Physician