approach the red lights at Shahbagh crossing you can spot
him limping on a crutch moving from car to cng-driven vehicle
to car, his hand outstretched, intermittently, mumbling something;
a band of yellow stain on his once-white prayer cap marking
the trickles of sweat he has to encounter in his day.
traffic lights in place, he knows how much time he has and
how many vehicles he can approach. Getting financial assistance
from donors has become routine for him, essential too; so
much so that he expects to be awarded each time, almost as
I use the crossing quite regularly he has come to recognise
me. Once or twice I did give him something. He was happy,
gave a long open-palm salaam and limped off gratified.
occasion I thought it better to hand over the change I had
to a lady beggar with a child on her lap; the months-old child
clinging on to the mom swayed my choice.
my irreproachable action annoyed our man only when he hobbled
up to me to beg for some alms, and was denied. Since I had
no more change I told him I had none. He quickly changed his
position from the obliged receiver of donation to an apparently
rightful owner of my money.
by saying that I have failed to discern the imposter (meaning
the lady) from the genuine claimant which he is. The gratefulness
he expressed on a previous occasion had disappeared completely.
He was almost unrecognisable.
me that he should tell me to whom and how I should, if indeed
I did, give away the change that I can spare. So I kept quiet,
looked straight ahead and waited for the lights to change.
He kept on the tirade. That was his right. This was his territory.
Perhaps he even had the protection of the police. He is in
his locality a VVIP.
on as I approach the crossing I hope for the green lights
so that I can pass unperturbed. But sometimes the lights are
unkind and I have to stop. Inevitably, the beggar man will
wobble towards me and keep on reminding to whom and how I
should give charitable donations. He was doing my thinking.
it. I could not handle this along any longer. I decided to
bring up the matter with some friends. I wanted to find out
how they tackle similar situations. In fact, I found one or
two who use the same crossing and have been giving the limping
beggar money on a regular basis. This made me feel better
and we convened the meeting at my place.
time he confronted me at the red lights with his usual invectives
I felt like vengeance and rolled down the glass to tell him
about the discussion I am having with some of his patrons.
He was fuming; how could I arrange a conference on his fate
and his future without informing him. He told me in as many
words that I should have had some respect for his image around
group meeting the disposition of the participants ranged from
disturbed to angry. They mentioned several things about the
beggar that even I did not know. Despite my being upset with
him for his unprovoked and uncalled for behaviour I had some
sympathy reserved for him.
said he was very brash with his fellow beggars at the crossing.
Someone saw him terrorising others for venturing on to his
beat. Someone saw him running at a lady beggar with a child
in a threatening manner. 'A beggar dictator, if that is appropriate,'
went on someone else. The meeting unanimously decided he must
be given the message behave or else no more aid, and that
we decide whom we should give our money to.
time I saw him he was chatting amicably with another beggar.
As I passed by the green light he greeted the lady beggar
loud enough for me to hear. I spotted the twinkle in his eyes
and the expression on his face, 'At least give me something
now'. Needless to say, the crossing has become more bearable
for all of us.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005