Beggars can be choosers

I have been to India a couple of times on holiday, and each time explored the surrounding area.

I am currently in India again alone this time on business and I felt it necessary to note the marked difference between this trip and the others on holiday

On the holiday occasions I have been to India I have been with my partner. Everywhere that we went, we were approached by beggars, to the point that it was often difficult to walk down the street without having a small child following you, begging for money while trying to pick your pocket.

However my experience on this trip has been very different.

Here I am travelling on my own and I appear to be completely invisible.

As my clothes have varied and my situations have varied, the only constant that I have decided to attribute this lack of interest to, is my colour.

I do not know whether the word has got out in India that black people are not the most generous when it comes to giving away our hard earned cash, or whether the recent African immigrants to India have a lower cast status than the ‘untouchables’ begging on the streets, but one thing is for sure, I seem to be alone in the fact that I have not been plagued by beggars.

Do not get me wrong, I am not complaining by any means. In fact it is not compounding to what is a difficult teaching assignment, because I can relax on my journeys to and from the office.

I have walked down the street and been actively ignored by beggars. They have looked at me, then turned away as if to say “He certainly will not have any money, let me continue to play here in the gutter”.

This morning I was in a car being driven to the office. We were stopped in traffic at a set of lights and a woman was walking up and down the lines of cars pleading for change. She would look into the windows shouting at first the drivers and then the passengers for spare change. She was particularly persistent.

The woman got to my car, tapped on my driver’s window, pleaded with him, then looked in my passenger window and gave me a look that I can only describe as relief for her own situation before walking off to the car behind me.

It is as if she said to herself “well, at least I am not black” and then moved on.

Without the distraction of the beggars, my mind turns to other distractions.

It is interesting comparing the advertisements on the notice boards on my way to and from work with the reality of life in the Indian street.

You approach a billboard on the side of a road with a happy, middleclass family, with all the trappings of life, advertising; property developments, drinks, sports centres and the like. Then you pan down from these billboards and are reminded of the harsh reality of the majority of Indian life which consists of all the trappings of a developing society.

The contrast is quite stark.

I wondered whether the Indians crammed onto bikes and tuk tuks, rushing to work, barely avoiding each other in that can only be described as a symphony of chaos, look up and see these billboards and wonder who the advertising companies are trying to fool.

I am very much aware that even in this developing country there is a huge amount of wealth and prosperity, but it is nestled along side abject poverty.

To me, the billboards seem to be a slap in the face to the people which whom I jostle for position on my daily commute.

My final observation of the business world in India on this trip would be the need for everyone to shoe-horn their qualifications into every conversation.

It is important to the students in my class to start every other conversation with “after I got my MBA…”

I have several friends with MBAs and you would not know it. I was friends with one woman (Hello Arlene) for several years before she asked me to look over her cv to check it, and only then did I realise that she had an MBA, so why is it so important to mention it within this Indian society.

Do they think that I am going to treat them differently just because I have that extra piece of information?

Is this qualification a defining part of their lives that the wear it like a badge, or hold it in front of them everywhere they go like a protest?

The irony is that it is normally those that parade their MBA that have problems in the class, are slow to pick up concepts and delay the class by asking questions as if the manual is wrong and they have discovered a new way of thinking, then dragging the rest of the class into pointless discussions to try and mask their lack of understanding…instead of trying harder to understand the topic.


~ by jeditopcat on 11 August, 2010.

%d bloggers like this: