Beg,Borrow or Steal – Present Day Mantra for Survival

Consider the following incidents during our recent temple tour:
Incident #1:
We were waiting at a bus stop adjacent to a small roadside temple. As I was waiting rather impatiently, I seemed to hear a very faint voice saying- ‘Sir, one rupee please’. I looked back and found no one in particular except a holy looking old man with vibhuti spread across his forehead quite prominently. I ignored the voice thinking that it was my imagination. Around that time one old woman entered the temple and I found a priest doing ‘Arati’ for the lady. After a while, I again heard a similar faint voice asking for money. This time I was determined to figure out who it was. I was stunned to find that the the same priest who did ‘arati’ for a devotee a while ago was doubling up as a beggar when there were no devotees. I paid him ten bucks and prayed to God on behalf of the priest. My anger gave way to pity and compassion.

Incident #2:
We reached ‘Nachiar temple near Kumbhakonam. As we were waiting for ‘darshan’, I happened to overhear a telephonic conversation of the priest. The priest kept so many people waiting as he took more than 10 minutes on his cell phone cribbing and complaining. This man stunned me as he brought the deity of the temple into his conversations. He said he was doing his work in the temple without any involvement whatsoever and added that he was simply moving around the temple like a dead body without any feelings. He went on to blame the God inside the temple for his misfortune.(He referred to the deity as a lifeless stone). Closing his conversation abruptly he came inside and performed ‘arti’ for us.

Incident#3:
On another day, an auto riksha driver was cribbing endlessly while justifying the exorbitant fare demanded by him. His point was that with all the complaints of so called fleecing by auto drivers, they are merely making 100 to 150 Rs per day, which is a rediculously low sum considering the cost of living. If one takes into account the loan repayment also, he said, the net take-home would be around 100 rupees. On exceptionally busy seasons like the wedding seasons, they would make over 200 Rupees per day.

Incident #4:
A Tourist taxi driver also had similar sob stories to share on another day. Apparently, these drivers work long and irregular hours(more than 12hrs per day) and make 250 rupees during busy seasons. During the lean season they would work only for half a day and make just half that amount.

Incident #5:
In another remote temple, a retired school peon cribbed about his lowly pension and extracted some money from us.

I should add to the above list my driver who borrowed heavily from me. I have no clue as to when he is going to repay considering that he has very recently added one more young member to his family. By borrowing from me, he has made sure that we are stuck with each other for good!

What is common to all these episodes? Utter poverty, deep frustration and restlessness to come out of it.
‘Beg, Borrow or Steal’ – seems to be the ‘mantra’and the guiding principle for survival for most of them. It is a matter of time before the restlessness turns into a rebellion similar to what we are witnessing in the Arab countries.

Most of the people I am talking about would fall below the Poverty Line even as per the latest Guidelines of Planning Commission, which fixed a rediculous limit of 35 rupees per person per day as the criterion.

Our nation is following the model of development of the West which is ‘welfare capitalism'(minus the welfare part). This social contract creates 1% of super rich minority supported by a large aspiring middle class. But this model of development does very little to alleviate extreme poverty at the bottom of the pyramid – the working class. We can feel the symptoms of their restlessness in all town and cities.

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Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 10:39 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Quite thought provoking!! It seems impossible that we have so many people ‘technically’ above poverty line but are paupers making them beg borrow and steal, and their actions are more or less justified by the woes they face.

    • No – even technically they are not above poverty line, If you consider they are a family of 5. To be above poverty line, the guy has to make on an average 180Rs/day. They certainly don’t make that kind of money, if you take into account the actual number of days of work per month. In fact on several days they are not engaged for a full day.


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