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twenties.   He has many more years to live as a cripple and beg.

Transported every morning by some one on a flat wooden pushcart hardly six inches above the surface of the road, he is deposited every morning at the junction of High Street and Wheeler Road extension, close to busy Canara Bank.   And there left to beg, trying to catch the eye of every one passing by.  He squatted there almost from six in the morning to, perhaps, late in the afternoon.

On some Sundays he is seen in the church; either in the Holy Ascension Church in St.Mary’s Town or in Revival Centre on Hutchins Road.   He manages to crawl into the church with some difficulty and stays in the aisle looking around for sympathetic response from those in the pews.   I am not sure if he goes to the church to pray.   Perhaps he thinks that church is the place where love overflows and church goers  generous givers.   But he has to wait till the end of the service to collect whatever they gave urged by the sermon of the day on Christian charity.   But many left the church through the doors on the sides avoiding the aisle.   Possibly they did not see Stephen looking at them with his anxious and eager eyes.

His week days’ rendezvous near the Canara Bank was more profitable because people coming out of the bank   with money jingling in their pockets were more inclined to part with some for charity.   The minimum expected by any beggar in Bangalore happens to be a rupee coin; 50p does not bring any smile on his face and 25p draws a contemptuous look.   When it is time  to retire for the day, the wooden cart arrives to wheel him back ‘home’ until the next morning when his day begins afresh.             ***************

The leper couple Mrs. & Mr.Maruthi have a son four or five years old.   They beg as a family, certified “cured and non-infectious” but not rehabilitated.   The next best thing for them to make out a living is to beg.   No one dares to employ them: I wouldn’t.   I have my own indelible prejudice against leprosy.   And  even to touch ex- lepers.

This couple do not show much of external deformity, except a white patch around their mouths and probably stumps of toes inside their canvas shoes.   These ‘cured’  lepers we see on the streets are a clan by themselves.   Discharged from Government hospitals or leprosy homes, neglected by rehabilitation centres, disowned by healthy society and disabled for life,  they from a close brotherhood.   They meet at a common meeting place and discuss their health  and well being.    

This Maruthi couple have carved out an area for begging each day of the week.  They appear in C.K.Garden on Saturdays precisely at 10 a.m. as if by appointment.   One hears their unintelligible begging call somewhat resembling “amma” or “iyyah”,. in unison.    I keep my contribution ready, in rupee coins,  for them and for the  train of ex-lepers who are expected to follow.   I do not want them to tarry at my gate but I soften my attitude when they try to engage me in friendly conversation which means a request for a pair of old spectacles, a blanket, a shirt, a sari or some more money for the little fellow’s school books.  Occasionally I relent and try to be generous but mostly I ‘shoo’ them away.                                                    

These are a few I remember from the past or interact with at present.   To write about all of them will be boring both for me and the reader.   There is no specific objective in writing this article except as my reminiscence, which  may not be or need not be of interest to any one.    Hence I quit as abruptly as I began.


52)   Poverty and Poetry

The reaction of the upper middle class andthe affluent to beggars and begging is crystallised in the following poem written by Chandralekha and published in the “Illustrated Weekly of India” of 11th November 1973.   The very structure of this poem in short phrases, and one-word lines is effective  and forcefully expresses the attitude of the rich to the poor.

I do not want to see

the face of poverty

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