A few months back, when I slowed the car at a speed breaker, a boy of about 12 banged on my car window. He was crying. He pointed to a woman who was sitting on the footpath and said she had a heart problem and had to be rushed to the hospital immediately and he needed money for the bus. The woman had a long robe that covered her head and body and she looked like she would faint any moment. So I gave the boy a hundred rupees and told him to take her by auto to the hospital immediately. The boy didn’t even have the time to thank me and ran away immediately.
As I drove on, I felt pangs of conscience at my feeble attempt to assuage my conscience with a hundred rupees and leaving a young boy, still a child, to manage the crisis by himself. I wondered if she would survive the trip to the hospital, if they had eaten anything, if the hospital would admit them without money. I nagged myself to no end until I could bear it no more and turned back resolving to take them to the hospital myself if I found them at the bus stop. They were gone and all I could do was pray that everything turned out well.
When I came home, I was still troubled and narrated the whole story to my son, feeling awful about myself. But my son laughed and said, “oh,this is a standard trick. You find them all over the place.”
I felt cheated and angry. I felt that I had “wasted” my sympathy and emotions on people who would stoop so low for money. Then I calmed down and wondered what compulsion must have driven them to resort to such tricks –obviously they were hungry and needed money; they had no way of finding gainful employment. May be there was no bread winner in the house, may be there were younger children in the house, hungry. What else could they do?
Now, every time someone approaches me (and they often do, may be it is something about my face) with a tearful story, I give the money and go on with my life without agonizing over if I should have done more or less. I am willing to take the risk of being a victim of a trick than lose sleep over having turned away from some one who might have actually genuinely needed it.
I have heard that our ancestors used to wait for at least one needy person that they could feed each day before having their meal. Perhaps it is a good idea for us to revive the custom, even though india is supposed to be "shining" and on the way to becoming a "super power"!
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