Friday, July 17, 2009

Children at Fatehpur Sikri

Poverty hits you full in the face when you tour India.

Nita Kumar, our guide, told us not to give to children or others who ask for money. Begging is an industry; children are kidnapped into it and owned. They hand over all proceeds to their owners.

What she does instead:

1) She gives money to widows. There's a spot in Nagwa where widows sit.

2) She gives pens to kids who beg on the ghats of the Ganga.

3) She also compliments them or teaches them something. "They can carry more than money--give them something else."

4) She takes rickshaw drivers to a place where they can get their tires repaired. (That way she knows they are not spending a gift on alcohol.)

5) She goes to a store and buys rice, then puts it in little bags to carry and give to poor people who are begging.

6) She gives to disabled people sitting in a temple or mosque and asking for alms. These people are more likely to be able to keep the money rather than part of the industry of begging.

I was often tempted to give to begging women or children and sometimes succumbed. I decided they deserved ten or twenty rupees (20-40 cents) for letting me take their picture.

But other times, as in the case of the children pictured above sitting on the floor and begging inside Fatehpur Sikri, built by Emperor Akbar to be his capital near Agra, I hurried on by, not stopping to open my wallet or figure out the ethics of the situation.

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