Mumbai is known for many things, one being, home to the biggest slum in Asia. Beggars are a daily sight in Mumbai, be it at the bus stand, at the temple doorsteps (that’s their favorite spot), railway stations, traffic signals and so on. Basically, they are a part of Mumbai & Mumbaikars have learnt to deal with it somehow. It’s heartbreaking to see kids begging on the streets so that their families can have a day’s meal. However, there is a difference between asking for alms and forcing someone to shell out a dime!!
Lately, I have noticed a bunch of vagrants on my way home. A mother along with 5 kids, accompanied by one more woman, are a daily sight at the traffic signal. The kids are all aged around 4- 5 years and one is a toddler , merely a year old. Since the traffic signal is near a big shopping mall, this is an ideal spot for them to earn their bread. Especially,during the evenings when the mall is teeming with people. The mother along with the other woman usually rests under a tree ( yea, there is still some green cover left in Mumbai 🙂 ) while the children are always kept on their toes! Every time a rickshaw stops in front of the mall, the alert children harass the passenger for a rupee or two. The kids usually target young girls , college going kids & foreigners since they are an easy target and end up paying instead of shooing them away.
I saw one of the kids pestering a girl for money and when she didn’t yield to his requests he simply asked her for an ice cream and called on his siblings !! The girl literally ran for her life. This tactic works very well at times and the kids end up earning a ten rupee note right away. There was an article in a daily about a leading Bollywood actor being harassed by a beggar on a crowded street in Mumbai. This actor was in his car when all of a sudden a beggar landed in front of his car, yelling and blaming the actor for the so-called ‘accident’. It was later revealed that the beggar was just trying to make some quick money, knowing a fact that people would obviously sympathize with him! How smart!
This has turned into a big nuisance and people end up paying not out of sympathy but due to sheer frustration and irritation. I wonder, why don’t these women do some house hold chores to earn their livelihood! I can understand if they disabled , but no, they are perfectly alright. Instead of giving the kids their due, they prefer to sit idly and let the kids suffer!! Is it because its easy money or are they plain, lazy?