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     Volume 4 Issue 40 | April 1, 2005 |

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(Sequel to 'The Taming of a Beggar' 25 March 2005)


The guy was furious. In his native dialect he went on a verbal rampage.
He had seen me approaching the Shahbagh junction from a distance. He stormed towards me. He was not even limping.
It was always my suspicion he was not as helpless as he pretended to be. Most often aid seekers give a sorry account of themselves to get additional aid from donors. Governments of even the LDCs are guilty of simulating such economic depravity. At his individual level he was no different. Gone was his initial subdued reaction after our group had met to decide his fate.
'You Mister!' he began. 'Why do you write about me in English paper? You want to ruin my image abroad!'
'Why are you all concerned with abroad only? What about your image here, amongst your own people?'
'It's all to do with bideshi aid. You will not understand.'
'How many foreigners give you alms?'
'I told you, you will not understand.'
'What happened to your lathi?' I ask.
'For a person who is not giving any vikkha you ask too many questions. Since I do not need your aid, it is not necessary for you to see the lathi every time you pass by. You saw it before, did you not, huh? Now about the newspaper report…'
'Our meeting of donors was to find out some means of helping you.' I try to be polite.
The chap was unstoppable. 'You don't have to show us any mercy. We do not require your money if that has to be taken under your conditions. If you agree to our conditions you may use this junction, otherwise you may leave.'
'I do not see any WE, all I see is you. Who are WE?' I managed to put in.
'I am we. Everybody is here. Can't you see?'
'But the streets around here look deserted…'
'Everyone else has gone for work. We are very hard working people, you know. I am here to give you and TV cameras interviews throughout the day.'
'Those who are not here may have something to say about the issue of you bullying them.'
'I alone am enough to talk to you since I represent the people around here.'
'But you seem to have driven away every one of your competitors from the street', I said hoping for the lights to turn green.
'Don't worry. I am very popular around here. I shall reign for another 25 years. No! Let me correct that… till I die.'
'I am not sure I understand the tone in your voice. You have suddenly changed your stance. Last week you appeared to have accepted our terms.'
Shaheb! Last week was last week? Itihaash! Last week I did not get the signal from my big huzoor.'
'And now you have a signal…?' I let my voice hang in the air.
'What am I telling you? I have been advised to be rude to my little donors.'
'Big donor is also very powerful. If he is with me I have no bhoy, no dawr.'
'But how can you be sure of his continuing support?'
'History says he is always with the tyrant. And you said I was one…'
'I never!'
'…or something to that effect.'
'What if he betrays you?'
'I look after his economic interests in this region. So I also have some hold on him… indirectly, that is.' The beggar guffaws.
'So you want to go back to your days of oppressing your opposition, depriving others their share, terrorising people…'
'As advised sir, as advised.'
'What if they all turn against you?'
'None of them have that much gut. Do you think I became a neta in this elaka by frying bhendi?'
'That's a good thought. How did you become a neta?'
'I should not be teaching you any of the tricks, lest you give a kick in my stomach. (sniggers) But, since I know you well I will let you in on some of the rules of the game. Above all, in this business of survival, you shall have to rule by force for which again you need to be conspiratorial; pitch that beggar against this beggar and so on. Also you will need to be a master liar. One truth from you and your reign here is finished. The good news is nowadays it is easier to convince people with falsehood than with facts. I am only taking advantage of the situation.'
'But are not the common people aware of the hanky panky?'
'Firstly, they are busy with their own dhandaa. Secondly, they have seen this cycle before and are frustrated for the time being. Thirdly, since I am in power, they are scared. Fourthly, many are falling sick due to pollution.'
'But if we donors, little as you put it, don't pay you on a regular basis, how will you survive?'
'You will pay. My big brother will tell you to pay. Otherwise there will be more awshanti. My big brother is also conspiratorial and a liar. Ahhh! My guru! He will make sure you small donors start fighting each other. The whole city will then start to burn. It has been done before. First World War, Second World War, Third World War…Only you did not realise. Surely, you do not want to be in that hot soup.'
'Where do you get such bizarre ideas from?'
'Global politics sir, global politics!' The beggar bares his teeth to show his disdain and continues, 'You can go now'.
'But the lights have not turned green…'
'Go! The traffic sergeant is waving you on to move through the red light.'
'They always do that, but why?'
'Maybe it's his way of telling the world that the green and red of 1971 has gone vice versa.'
'Strange for a beggar to be so informed,' I mutter to myself.
'May be one day you and I will also be vice versa. It has happened before.' He guffaws again.
By then the lights were really green.
In the end they usually are.

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