Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, October 5, 2006

Begging is an old profession that is also facing the tide of change.Wheather it is a progressionor a regression is best left to the readers to decide

Beggers are the choosers

By Yamin Tauseef Jahangir

The world is changing. With technological advancements we are becoming modernised everyday and in every possible way. You would think that such changes would mainly affect the well off. You would think wrong. Begging is an old profession that is also facing the tide of change although whether it is a progression ro a regression is left up to you to decide. Well, this change also applies for the beggars too. As for the 21st century beggars, life is totally different from what we have experienced. Beggars today talk differently, act differently and overall they lead their lives differently. Well, let me clarify.

It so happened that my elder brother got a job in a well-reputed company. My mother then decided to feed the destitute. So she told me to get hold of some beggars. I never did this before so I was a bit confused. How and from where do I start? Misery loves company so I took along a friend to look for them.

He suggested we should visit the mosques and the mazaars as many of them crowd at those places. We went to a nearby mosque where we failed to convince even a single beggar to come along. So it was a fit of desperation when we spotted one in front of a store. I went up to him and requested to come to my house. But he turned out to be very rude and said, “Pechaal pairen na, ekhon ektu biji aachi!” (Don't talk nonsense I'm a bit busy now). We were not only confused but quite flabbergasted. I never thought that a beggar would react like that. We decided to go to a mazar.

We were very happy to find lots of fakirs there. I got hold of one and requested him to come at my place. He instructed me that first I would have to talk to his leader for permission. I was shocked! I never knew that these beggars have a gang and that they even have a boss! When I approached the boss I found him to be an old man with the stereotypical pik (the juice of paan) smeared mouth.

I asked for his permission and he said that he had a tight schedule and asked whether the invitation is for lunch or dinner. I explained our situation to him but it did not seem to matter much to him. The boss asked for timings and also for our telephone number.

I gave him my cell phone number and he said I would be informed as to when they would be available. I was totally dumbfounded; I wanted them to come today. The boss then showed his yellow teeth and said, “Uncle aamra boisha maachi marina, amago kaam thake!” (Uncle, we do not sit idle, we have got other things to do). I wondered what other work could a beggar have other than begging?


It was like I was 'begging' for him to come! When I almost gave up, another fakir came and whispered something to the boss. The boss nodded and then asked me about the menu. I informed him there would be rice, salad, vegetables and meat. He demanded for fish and decided to come only when I assured him of his choice. I was relieved and gave him my address.

I never thought in my wildest dreams that beggars can also be the choosers. I then understood that people have changed and this change has also affected the beggars of our country. The way they talk and treat you, it seems like you are the one who is helpless. At last they came to my place totaling a group of six. After lunch they started their prayer chanting in a singsong manner and all I could hear and understand was the word Aamin. Well, that was my first experience and to tell the truth I did not like it at all.



home | The Daily Star Home

2006 The Daily Star