After Hindi class, I decided to pop over to the market to pick-up a few much-needed essentials in our fridge – yogurt, butter, yummy cream for my coffee. We are a full-fat household and I love living somewhere where I don’t have to fuss through rows of non-fat, low-fat, non-food to get to the real stuff. However, I have other obstacles in just getting to the store. This little one tore open my heart yesterday:She wrapped herself around my left leg and wouldn’t let go. I walked, stiff limbed, with her riding me and begging me for money. Coincidentally, I was on my way to the bank to get cash for groceries. This precious little thing held on and refused to let go. I caressed her head, spoke to her, tried to pry her off, to no avail. The security guard at the bank yanked her from me – and she dangled by her arm – mid-air, screaming. When I walked out of the bank, this is what I saw:
The security guard is on the left, probably calling the police to remove her from the area. The child saw me walking away and she ran after me and re-attached herself. We repeated our walk, with me dragging her along on my leg. People were yelling at me to not give her money. I stopped once again to pry her off and was successful, but this time she grabbed my knee-length cardigan and so we walked with her being pulled along in my wake:
The security guard at the grocery store pried her from me and I entered the store alone. I didn’t see her again when I returned to my car half-an-hour later.
And so, you might ask, why didn’t I give her money or food? There’s no simple answer here. Had I given her something, I would have been surrounded by numbers of other beggar children. What would that feel like? Did I not give to save myself this discomfort and inconvenience? Does not giving solve the problem by encouraging beggars to move on?
The Delhi city government thinks so. In preparation for the Commonwealth games next fall, the city is wrestling with ways to rid Delhi of its beggars. Short of rounding them up and relocating them, which is one solution under discussion, the city has directed people to not help beggars in hope that they will return to their rural homes.
It’s not easy to harden your heart when faced with a small child, dirty and barefoot, desperate from either truly being hungry or scared from being pimped. I told this story at dinner because my children are not immune to this sort of scene – they see some form of it everyday – and because I thought it might lead to some fruitful, cathartic discussion. I was soo wrong! Lala asked me why God allows this to happen and I stumbled through a totally imperfect and messy, untouchable answer – something about God’s laissez-faire approach to managing the world. The conversation ended not-too-comfortably there.
Lala is smart enough to go only one “why” deep when she knows that mommy simply has no real answer.