At a random red light in New Delhi, during peak traffic, with windows rolled up and airconditioning on full blast, I am suddenly confronted with a face unwashed. She peers at me through my drivers window. Her hair is matted, her clothes are rags and her blackened fingrnails beat a tattoo on the pane.
I scrounge around in my bag for a few coins. "You aren't going to give her that!" scolds my driving companion. Beggars are just lazy good for nothing so and so's. Ask her to come to your house to work for a days meal and see how fast she'll go away.
But why should a 6 year old leave familiar surroundings and climb into a strange ladies car to wash her dishes to earn a meal?? Surely she has survived life on the streets because she knows better than that. Besides, wouldn't that be child labour?
It puzzles me. Why do we look at beggars as lazy good for nothings. Dodging killer bluelines all day, dashing between unpredictable bikes and scooters, inhaling diesel fumes in the hot sun takes a lot of energy.
They tend to linger longer at certain car windows and skip others. Months and years of practice helps them make a blink decision about who will give and who won't.
She's still at my window. Looking wistfully inside. I reach for a tenner instead. It will probably be pocketed by the beggar mafia. Tomorrow I will keep some biscuits for her, or better still fresh fruit.
The light turns, she scampers away with a greatful grin. I reach office and have already forgotten my resolve about the gift of food.