I was returning from work. Yet another normal day at office it was... I got down from the bus and saw a juice shop. It was a hot and sultry evening and decided one glass would do me good and ordered one large glass for me. Just then, a beggar boy came there - almost crying - said aloud – भैया दो रुपये दे दो. भूख लगी है. The shopkeeper, sensing my discomfort shooed the guy away (not the PC way). The boy went away but he didn’t go from my mind. There was something in his eyes that held me.
Now I have heard a lot about the beggary nexus of Mumbai and how kids are tortured to begging and how the beggars network to make money! Something struck me. The boy – barely 10 – roamed the streets the whole day barefoot and asked for Rs.2 from me. Accepted he didn’t give me any direct service or product but that didn’t mean he wasn’t tired – that he didn’t need food – that he dint wish it was him who was having the cool juice. He worked the afternoon – probably more than me and asked for Rs.2 in return. I do not like to support beggary – but that’s because I’ve been asked not to and this was one area where I somehow never questioned the orders – an area where the rebel Puneet did accept. But now I questioned it... The beggar had already moved on. I too did...
But not for long... I reached my room and switched on the IPL – The Kings were losing yet again – but my mind was far from pretty Preity. I just couldn’t get the boy out of my head and decided I needed more info. I walked back to the juice shop – the guy was there asking another guy for Rs. 2. I asked the boy what he would do with the money – he said he’d buy a vadapav for food. The shopkeeper suggested I forget the matter in his typical mumbaiah – “इन सबको भाव नहीं देने का” accent... I decided I wasn’t gonna give him money but I could also not leave him. I retraced a few steps and found my regular bananawala there. Bought 3 of them for Rs.5 (I only had Rs. 10 change and I had other plans for the Rs 5). I went into the shop just behind – the shopkeeper knew what I was doing – he uttered some profanities against the street urchins but I was not listening today. I asked the shop what he’d give for Rs.5. He gave me a Vadapav. I went back to the juice shop - the boy was still there. I gave him the bananas and the Vadapav. The Juicewala and the boy, both looked at me in surprise and probably even suspicion but I guess the boy was really hungry. He took the first banana and ate it off in a blink. Next took the vadapav and thanking me, ate that too. I do not know if he needed that vadapav despite his “network” but for me, it was the vadapav that told me that the boy (and others of his kind) do desire – unfulfilled but earthly desires – those which we take for granted – those we ridicule – those that form the very basis of their livelihood and what we call “nutrition”. For them, its plain and simple - "Survival".
I know its better to teach a man to fish rather than give him a fish - but what does he fish for!!! In a world full of fishermen waiting in the lines, who will allow him to fish???