This happened almost a year back. During my daily commute to office along with my colleague in his vehicle I used to see some daily sights and people, who became a daily part of the 50 minutes drive to office. One of the sights was of a beggar woman along with her old mother (seemed like) and two little children , one a girl of almost 4 years and the little boy was always on her hip and he was almost 1. I used to see her at the traffic light every day, and it seemed she slept on the nearby pavement, this was a busy road and by the time we reached the spot, we used to see her begging for some money and then bringing tea and biscuits for her mother and children, by the look of the pavement and things strewn around there I could make out that she lived there itself, maybe. I was really upset to see her everyday in this condition, her clothes were torn and tattered, the boy did not have any clothes below his waist, the little girl also wore a torn frock, the mother was also in rags.
This sight of this hapless woman, in her prime youth, struggling with life to sustain an old woman and two kids disturbed me a lot. Every day as we passed by this traffic light , I used to discuss with my colleague about how I felt, and then we left it at that. But since it was our daily route and this was a daily thing, my mornings started becoming disturbed and upset, I wanted to do something desperately for this woman , especially for the children and the old woman. The weather was about to change, there was already a nip in the air, the plight of the children was unbearable. One day I took out all the clothes of my children and mine which we had stopped using or was about to discard, some were brand new but my younger one could not wear it because she had outgrown it. I made a huge bundle of all the clothes, I took out some good salwar suits which I could give to her. I discussed with my husband and then my colleague about wanting to give this to this woman, with my colleague, because after all I had to use his car to carry this huge bundle. For a good 4 days this bundle was kept in his car but could not be given to her as she had just disappeared, or sometimes she was on the other side of the road and because the location was such that we could not stop the car and wait for her to come to our side.
Finally one day, we started a bit early and caught her sitting sleepily by the side of her children on the pavement, I called her from the car, she came running, suddenly from nowhere two or three other girls also followed, these girls were younger than her, in same kind of attire, but I had never seen them early. They came to the car window and said, paisa de do, when I said paisa nahi hai, kapde le lo, her face fell she turned back , the other girls asked for food, I said I will get it for you next time, you keep the clothes and give it to her. They went after her and she came back to the car, she took the bundle hesitantly, I asked her to give the kid clothes to her boy and girl, she looked at me blankly. There was no feeling on her face,no happiness, no excitement, nothing. She took the bundle and walked back.
Next day, I was excited to go to office, so that I can see her and the kids wearing those clothes, at least they would be protected from the cold, I thought. Again I was disappointed, I could not see her, no sign of any one. After two days I saw her in the same tattered clothes, her boy was wearing a t-shirt which I had given , but she was in the same tattered clothes, so was her daughter and mother. Next day came the big jolt, I saw all the clothes which I had given to her, well most of them, strewn on the street , well not strewn, thrown on the streets !! This moment was freezed in my mind !
I was taken aback, well jolted at this you can say, but my colleague told me “nothing surprising about this, tell me how will she succeed in begging if she wears such nice clothes, no one will give her or any of her family any alms , so what will she do with the clothes, it is of no use to her, it is only a deterrent for her daily earnings, so she had only one option and that is to throw it away” !!!! He had warned me of this earlier, giving the same logic, but I did not consider it and when it actually happened I was totally shaken.
I know she wants money and food only, I did not know what to do , I was not in a position to feed four of them everyday , or even if I fed them, I could not do it for long.. This whole episode, the sight of clothes thrown on the streets brought in two entirely opposite emotions in me, anger on one hand that she did not keep the clothers to atleast protect her children and mother if not for herself , sympathy and helplessness on the other on the supposed reason behind this act, I was at a loss of words and wit!!
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