Beggars are a permanent part of any rural and metropolitan scene. Some are known by business owners and the police, because they are often suspected of theft, fencing, prostitution and related illicit activity. Even though most of them spend much of their time on the streets, most are not homeless. They concentrate on areas of high pedestrian traffic, such as downtown business districts and public gathering spots such as city bus stops, train stops, airports, parks, restaurants and hospitals. For some, begging is only one survival tactic sporadically used along with other opportunities for income, including theft, and the selling of personal possessions, blood, plasma, drugs, government- issued vouchers, and other illegal goods and services.
It is very difficult to say how and where begging began. Some inherited from their ancestors. There are all kinds of beggars whose period of begging spans from five minutes to fifty years. A boy was begging for peanuts, but when offered money, he refused.”I like peanuts,” he said and ran away- his needs were specific. Just like lawyers, administrators and athletes, beggars too can be very professional. They guard their territories jealously. It is common for them to fight over territories.
Beggars care about their appearance and clothing just like actors and performers. People who beg in the name of religion grow a suitable beard, wear a long kurta along with a praying cap(topi). The fortuneteller wears malas(necklaces) and rings. The transvestites (‘its’ dressed as women) have altogether different, yet distinct styles. They are clean shaven, wear women’s clothing and apply fashionable cosmetics. They also acquire artificial feminine postures and dancing gaits. Beggars who use animals for fund raising decorate their pets, too. They buy caps and bells for their monkeys.
Beggars master the art of begging just as they master the art of dressing up. They know that it is very difficult to refuse a hungry beggars when you come out of a restaurant, all filled up. While a woman begs in the name of her husband who is said to be on the death bed in a hospital, it is quite possible that the husband is begging in his wife’s name on the next street! A pregnant woman will say that her child as died and she needs money for the funeral. Her heart- rending appeal fetches good money. An entire family will beg saying they lost everything in the floods. The children and women in scantly clothing would be sleeping on the roadside while the head of the household begs the passersby for small change. Some of them will ask money to buy gain or rice and will, instead end up buying drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.
Beggars children, in addition to begging, also take to pick- pocketing, stealing of shoes in mosques, and petty thefts in the bazaars. Many professional thieves hire beggar children as their assistants, informants, and as peddlers of stolen goods. If the police catch these kids, they are sent to government remand homes or religious centers, but it is not of much use. They again take to the streets, as that is their only means of survival.
Beggar colonies are breeding grounds for the anti-social elements. They follow a very unhygienic lifestyle, cooking sleeping and defecating in the same area.
I would certainly consider beggars to be most motivated, loyal and determined to do their job as, despite receiving angry, ignorant and insulting responses, they continue with their work! This does not happen just a few times. They are ignored, shouted at and generally maltreated many times every day and every hour. And not only are they ignored but sworn at, told angrily to get a job, to go away, that they are lazy bums, they are trash, etc., etc. These are only a few of the insults, and the milder ones at that.
With in increase in rural to urban migrations, begging has also tremendously increased. Now we hardly find any roundabout, hospitals or hotel without being guarded by a group of beggars. It is not uncommon to see a housewife toss a coin through the car window to the beggar after the husband has chased him away. As long, as we do not shun this fast track to heaven, no law or reform can stop the profession of begging from prospering.