There are days when you just work and return home. Over a period time, this becomes mechanical. However, I am not here to complain about such a routine.
In fact, a substantial part of my day is spent in commuting. I mainly travel in the local trains of Mumbai, like many others.
This article is about a beggar that I saw in one such train.
You see thousands of faces daily on the trains and stations of Mumbai; all rushing to their destinations and after a couple of days, you become used to the sight.
Last Saturday, besides the usual crowd that boarded the empty train, a beggar also entered the compartment I was travelling in.
The beggar was an old man with his back bent. He climbed onto the train very slowly, with expressions of helplessness and despair. He came towards us, seeing that a lot of people were gathered there.
One man gave him a few coins. The rest of us started giving whatever little we could to the man. He just went from one passenger to the other with folded hands.
Having done this act of momentary generosity, my fellow passengers went back to whatever they were doing earlier. However, I just could not turn my gaze away from that old man. I kept staring at him as he went about begging from one person to the next.
The next station arrived. The old man gathered all the alms and got off. He went and sat down at the station, still looking completely disoriented. The train passed by the old man.
Some things affect you very deeply. This time, before I had even realised, my eyes had become moist. I became very gloomy – to the extent that I had to go stand near the door to feel the air and refresh myself.
Seeing an old and needy woman at the same station didn’t help matters either. The people passing by saw their deplorable states. However, they didn’t even bother to help these destitute people.
How did the lives of the man and the woman turn out like this? How did they end up begging on the trains at such an age? Shouldn’t they be leading homely lives instead?
While I realise that there may be any number of reasons for their states, do people like these not have the right to live with dignity in their old age? What kind of a society have we created if elderly citizens, who are too weak to move, have to beg in trains? Is this the kind of society that we want to live in?
Turning around, I saw people engrossed with themselves, oblivious to the existence of the old beggars. I wonder what these people would think if they ended up as beggars themselves. What sort of nation am I living in, where the government can’t protect citizens at their most vulnerable and needy states?
I knew that I was in no way responsible for the conditions of the beggars. But how could I have turned my eyes away from them? And for that matter, how could you all have ignored these beggars? Is the humanity in people, nowadays, limited only to voicing concerns over social media?
The worst part was when I realised my own helplessness, as I did not have the required resources to help the old man and woman. But what about those who possess the resources? Why are they not coming forward to help these people?
I am probably coming across as a stupid person by voicing concerns such as these. I also do not have the solutions.
However, what I want to point out is the fact that the act of ignoring beggars is, by no means, humane. More pertinently, is there no long-term solution to the problem of beggary? How can we claim to be progressive if people in India are still begging in the 21st century?
Regarding these issues, only you can be your own judge. I only hope that instead of being engrossed with your own lives, you look around, observe and understand.