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6 December 2013 / leggypeggy

More on buskers and beggars

Indian girl and boy

This young lady got 10 rupees for doing a cartwheel. She put her brother down first

India has no shortage of beggars, but I haven’t seen all that many buskers (street performers, especially musicians).

I’ve written before about my donation policy. I’ll always give to buskers, unless someone is so bad that they shouldn’t be encouraged, but I almost never give to beggars.

This topic comes up after several encounters over the last few days.

There weren’t any beggars in the national parks and villages. But now that we’re in bigger cities, the hands out, asking for handouts, have been common.

Three days ago in the touristy hill station of Mussoorie, a well-dressed woman and boy in school uniform walked toward me on the street. As she passed, she pleadingly stuck out her hand on the off chance I might put something in it.

That’s not a professional beggar so much as an opportunist. But how do people learn such behaviour? They learn it because someone has put money in that randomly outstretched hand.

A group of children swarmed around me the other morning in a Jain temple. Their hands were out and they tugged on my clothes and arms. I spoke to them in English, at length. I won’t give you money just for asking. Do something to entertain me—a headstand, a dance, a song, anything. On my second day in India we were stopped at a traffic light and a little girl did a cartwheel. I quite willingly gave her 10 rupees. And finally I said. You haven’t understood a word I’ve said. Go to school. Learn English. Begging is not a good career move.

Or maybe it is. Anand and Deepti said these days beggars are rejecting donations of less than 10 rupees. They also said many beggars in India are becoming quite rich. I already suspected that. When I lived in Egypt in the 1970s, one of the Cairo’s well-known beggars died in the street. He had about $25,000 hidden in his clothing.

Jain temple

Strolling through the temple grounds before the kids swarm

Anyway, the children ran off when three women, who had been sitting nearby, called to them. They all left the temple together from a side entrance. Ten minutes later when we left by the front entrance, the same kids were there, badgering me again—hoping that persistence would pay off. It didn’t.

But the recent begging has reminded me of a sign I saw a few years back in Lalibela, Ethiopia. It was stuck on the side of a box in a restaurant. I can’t remember the exact words, but basically it said don’t give money or things to beggars, and especially don’t give anything to children. We know who needs help in this town. If you want to make a donation, put it in this box.  So I did.


Leave a Comment
  1. Mike / Dec 7 2013 3:12 am

    Great posts recently Peggy! Feel like I’m there with you.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 7 2013 5:18 am

      Thanks Mike. So great to have your company! Any plans to visit Australia?


      • Mike / Dec 7 2013 6:09 am

        Wish I could come back for a visit! My health precludes me from traveling now I’m afraid. I’m living my travel adventures through you now Peggy. 🙂


      • leggypeggy / Dec 7 2013 2:46 pm

        You can be sure that next time I’m in Nebraska, I’ll come bother you.


  2. lmo58 / Dec 7 2013 11:04 am

    I support your policy on beggars Peggy and your attempt to encourage them to go to school instead. The Ethiopian restaurant’s idea is a good one. It’s a pity that more visitor haunts don’t have something similar. The little girl’s smile is enchanting! Thank you as always.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 7 2013 2:48 pm

      Yesterday I tried to give some money to a little boy selling a pen. He said no. I don’t know if it was because it wasn’t enough to cover the pen, or he thought it was too little a ‘donation’. But I tried to give it to him because he was selling something and not begging.


  3. Gary Walker / Dec 7 2013 12:06 pm

    When I was in Mexico we were told not to give money to children begging for change.

    If the kids can make money soliciting pesos their parents won’t send them to school. Poor parenting skills in my opinion but I don’t live in poverty. I’m not going to judge.

    It’s hard to turn a blind eye. I didn’t give any money to any of the children but it sure was hard. More than a few times though, I bought some food from street venders and gave them a few tamales or whatever just to enjoy for themselves

    If you could have seen the look of joy on their faces… food.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 7 2013 2:50 pm

      It’s very hard to turn a blind eye. And I don’t mind giving food, as long as it’s not sweets. When we had a homestay on an island in Lake Titicaca, we were told to bring food as a gift for our host family, but NO sweets. Very sensible.


  4. RICK / Dec 7 2013 2:11 pm



    • leggypeggy / Dec 7 2013 2:45 pm

      Oh wow, Rick. We loved the Antarctic. I’m sure you will too.


  5. Lesley Snow / Dec 8 2013 7:05 am

    I completely support your policy on beggers. I haven’t always maintained it but I think it is a great policy.


    • leggypeggy / Dec 8 2013 9:30 am

      Thanks Lesley. Sometimes I weaken, but not often.


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