The Art of Begging in India

by Sharell शारेल on October 23, 2010

in Culture Shock in India, Daily Life in India

Post image for The Art of Begging in India

Up until recently, I harboured a secret. A shameful secret. I’d hit a beggar in Mumbai. Not just any beggar, but an old woman with a missing arm. And I’d hit her with considerable force. I thought that no one else could’ve possibly done something so awful. I was wrong though.

When I read this outstanding article, I realised that I’m not the only person to have have hit a beggar here. What’s more, when my friends read it many of them admitted to also having hit, and even kicked, a beggar. Yes, we are all foreigners. And vicious foreigners too, by the sounds of it.

What turned me into such a monster that I hit a defenseless old woman? I was stuck in an auto rickshaw at a set of traffic lights. My husband was with me. She ignored him, thinking, for an obvious reason, that I was a better target. She started tapping me on the leg and waving her deformed arm in my face. I told her nicely (in Hindi) not today. She continued tapping and moaning. I told her again that she wouldn’t get any money from me. She increased the frequency of her tapping on my leg. I didn’t appreciate her touching me like that, so I shouted at her not to do it. Then, I turned my back towards her to ignore her. She responded by redirecting her tapping to my head, and heavily too, with her dirty hand. The line was crossed. I snapped, turned around, and smacked her hard — even shocking myself. It wasn’t one of my finest moments in Mumbai.

It didn’t surprise me that the beggar woman didn’t seem to want to get the message though. Begging is serious business in Mumbai. This recent article in the Mid Day newspaper reveals just how serious.

As the article explains, beggars will invariably belong to a gang, where they are vigorously trained to be tenacious and keep harassing a person until they receive something. New beggars learn from the seniors in the heirachy. They are also shown how to drag their disabled bodies in front of people, fall and roll dramatically on the road, and slash their own bodies if caught pickpocketing by police. Apparently, the police are unwilling to take on the task of sending them for medical treatment, so they let them go.

Each beggar must give the money earned to the head of the gang, who distributes it equally between everyone after taking the biggest share for himself. A beggar will usually take home 500 to 1,000 rupees on a normal day, and more during festivals. This is a heck of lot more than what the city’s hardest workers, such as auto rickshaw drivers and maids, earn.

What’s even more shocking is the booming business of renting babies out to beggars. The reality is that those lethargic babies being carried around by beggars are most likely not their own. The will have rented them for around 100 rupees a day. I’ll never forget reading this shocking story about a nanny who hired a Bangalore couple’s baby out to beggars while they were at work.

Apparently, the majority of eunuch beggars in Mumbai are not even real. They’re men dressed up in woman’s clothing and trained to imitate them.

Positively, there are many charities set up to help get beggars off the streets, especially children. However, the sad thing is that many of them prefer to beg because it’s much easier. According to one beggar, “It’s kind of a long term employment. Bhai (the head of the gang) takes care of our basic needs. All we have to do is sit or beg in a particular area.”

It’s difficult to see a beggar on the street and not feel anything, whether annoyance or pity. But give money to them? I won’t because it doesn’t directly help them. I always try and speak to them as kindly as possible, but there are limits. Unfortunately, I’ve found out that my behaviour can be as extreme and as unpredictable as this city.

Photo: user gregor_y

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© Copyright 2010 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Gopal October 23, 2010 at 9:11 pm

I agree, that now there are lot many who are part of some gang.. and many of them are forced to beg by the gang, who many times make them physically disabled so that they can earn more..

still, i usually don’t refuse to beggars who are very old or women.. as it just takes one or two Rs to satisfy them.. also, u’ll find urself lighter.. if u refuse them even when they are pushing, and the beggar really seem to be very pathetic, then u may feel guilty for refusing..


Sharell October 23, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Oh, I have given money to a blind man that sang on the Mumbai local one day… he was too special to refuse. But maybe he was just pretending to be blind. :-(


Mark October 23, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Interesting article – I’ve always wondered! Timely too, as my wife and I will be in Delhi (& Kolkata) next month…so a good reminder when I’m being besieged on Chowringhee! Sharell…here’s the funny thing – we’ve decided to blog in parallel (our friends think this is very amusing)!


Sharell October 23, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Mark, make sure you send me the links of those blogs! 8)

Bhagirathi, that really is disgraceful that they turn down work that pays so much better. I have even less tolerance for them now. When you see how hard some people work in Mumbai to earn an honest living, and these beggars are just being so blaze about turning down good opportunities like that (and actually being outraged!). It’s so wrong.


Bhagirathi October 23, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Sharell, it is very common to see beggars all over the place, in shopping centers, roads, anywhere and everywhere, just waiting to pounce on us. They know the knack of stalking you till you part with some money. And if you make that mistake, be prepared to deal with a dozen more who have been tipped off by the earlier recipient. I never make eye contact with them ’cause I feel guilty that they are unfortunate. At the same time I am furious with them because they want easy money. I say this because I have offered to give them contract work with 100 times what I give for begging, but they just refuse and feel outraged that I could even suggest such a thing. You are right, this begging business is a big network with many big players behind the scenes. They actually end up earning much more than an average person earns but continue with their miserable appearance, which is part of their sales strategy.


JAYESH October 23, 2010 at 10:13 pm

My dear Ninja Sharell,

First rule in using those chops and kicks is that there should be adequate provocation! ;-)

Its O. K., my dear Bhabhi, as long as you have realised that your reaction was a bit on the extreme side.

Next time, just ignore them, look straight and lean inside the rickshaw.
They will either go away, or the traffic lights will release.

If you think your regular beggars are annoying, the ‘Chakkas’ or eunnuchs that rule the traffic signals are scary!
If you are a male, they will touch your cheeks, your hands.
One tried to even grab my crotch!
I am deathly afraid of them!
I keep Rs. 2 change in my pocket and give only that much, and only if he/she is getting too close!
I pray for the traffic lights to open.

The worst sufferers are the young couples at ‘love-spots’ in Mumbai, like Bandstand and Aksa beach where the eunnuchs demand their regular ‘hafta.’

When I was a kid, there were reports in newspapers of largescale kidnapping of boys by organised ennuchs, castrating them and employing them as beggars.
We were given strict instruction in schools to keep clear off them!

The beggars also have nexus according to the location and the local property rates.
Their is a strict hierarchy here.

I study in a Municipal Hospital and get poor patients and one kid explained to me that a beggar from South Mumbai is the ‘raja.’
He gets the best ‘income’ as it is a buissiness and a tourist district.
Next come Bandra suburbs and they can ply their ‘trade’ (his exact words being ‘dhanda’) upto Andheri while vice-versa is forbidden and if found out is taught a ‘lesson’ (as this kid was).

You would be surprised to know that some of these ‘proffessional beggars’ own 2 BHK flats in areas like Andheri and Borivali.

Then there is the ‘Family Variety.’
This is a recent trend, where a husband, wife (with a kid, sometimes) and some luggage approach you and tell a sad story of ‘how they came to visit a brother but were unceremoniously thrown out/could not find the address and whether they could have some money to eat.’
The first time I came across, I gullibly gave Rs. 50.
But found him at the same place 2 days later, trapping another gullible victim, with another sad story.
I must say I saved another victin and informed the security guards of the nearby building societies who then removed them.
(Maybe they were in cahoots?)

Then there is the ‘English-speaking, well dressed’ variety with a similar sad story.
Mostly, these are elderlies (I parted with a hundred when an elderly grandmother moved me with a sad story of how her drunk son, under the influence of his wife, drove her out. She just wanted money to eat and find an ‘ashram.’).
I recovered it when I saw her the next day, in a different dress – clean, selling a similar story (this time she had a daughter with an evil son-in-law) two blocks away. Took me some haggling, let me tell you!
(Good thing I go for a walk, eh?)

So Sharell, I am quite unsympathetic to beggars and offer the children/handicapped food from the nearby stall, which, not-so surprisingly, many refuse.


Sharell October 23, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Next time, just ignore them, look straight and lean inside the rickshaw.
They will either go away, or the traffic lights will release.

Hey Jayesh, trust me, they won’t. Maybe the case is different for an Indian, but they refuse to give up and go away when its a foreigner. Ignoring them only makes them more determined to get the attention because they don’t want to pass up the chance. They can do what they want…. but not start tapping me on the head… especially when I’ve shouted at them to leave me alone and stop touching me!!!


JAYESH October 23, 2010 at 11:02 pm

That’s why I said lean inside the rickshaw, where they can’t touch so much.

I know they target foreigners much more and are more persistent with them, but ignoring them is the best route as you do not want to get physical with an old lady, if there is a group.
If it is a single male, in a crowded area, go ahead with your Ninja! :-)

Another reason to ignore is that the traffic signal will open soon, anyway, unless its a bumper-to-bumper, then, bummer!
Then ask the rickshaw-wallah to drive them away, which he will do so in their own street language.
Most rickshaw-wallahs don’t refuse as they too, get irritated with them (unless they are part of the nexus).

Or, if you don’t mind, keep a Rs. 2/3 change with you, if they trouble too much!

The kids are the worst!
I have seen a foreigner couple standing helplessely, surrounded by a group of 10-15 children.
I advised the couple to be careful of their stuff, continue walking and get inside the nearest shop.
I then dispersed the kids by screaming and threatening to throw rocks!

It gets very, very infuriating! You need to be Indian street-smart and almost ruthless when dealing with the pesky ones.

The tragedy is that we can’t help in the genuine cases as we can’t differentiate, many times! :-(


JAYESH October 23, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Why would someone, without any self-respect/conscious try working like a labourer when he/she can earn twice the amount by begging?

‘The Man with the Twisted-Lip’ from Sherlock Holmes’s Adventures?

There are, like I said rich, ‘proffesional beggars’ living on income-tax-free ‘income.’


Kunal October 24, 2010 at 3:28 am

Believe it or not, the beggars with sob story tricked me even in New York. No, that person didn’t want 2 or 5$. I had to give 40$ as his family was stuck in the city and all they needed was some money to take china town buses back to home!

I saw that same person couple of weeks later in the same spot.


Bruce October 24, 2010 at 3:35 am

I find most behaviour forgiveable. However, it doesn’t matter where in the world, it is unacceptable for anyone, beggar or not, to touch and poke you. I have a pretty simple philosophy to that end. Touch me and lose a finger.


Kate October 24, 2010 at 4:37 am

Wow that article in The Australian was really good, so well written. Thanks for posting the link. And for the whole post! No one is entirely good, we are all human. Very thought provoking.


MDG October 24, 2010 at 5:10 am

I’m glad you wrote a post about this, Sharell. Very well done. I didn’t study up enough about this before going to India. I was very clueless how to react to all the beggars. I felt like a horrible person if I didn’t give money, but then I was told I should absolutely never give money because of the reasons you just mentioned. I wrote of seeing an eunuch as well in one of my posts. Our driver actually rolled down his window and gave him money immediately, afraid if he didn’t the eunuch would cast a curse on him.

I understand you lashing out. I got really tired of it too during our sightseeing travels. Every time I stepped out of the car to see a temple or historic site, I was bombarded. Then of course I felt horrible for being upset over it! It’s just very, very overwhelming and draining.

This post should help out a lot of travelers on their way to India who may be just as clueless as I was about the whole thing. BTW, how do you feel about handing out food instead of money? I always wished I had a stash of granola bars on me. But even that could get expensive.


Evil Cathy October 24, 2010 at 5:54 am

Oh, I just haaated being touched, that is so intrusive and made me bring out the antibacterial lotion both times it happened. I don’t think there is any need to feel guilty at all, and far better to give to a charity when there is guilt (unless of course you are a man in fear of being touched :D). Once when in Jaipur outside the City Palace, on the ‘bad side’ with probably 100 beggars around) and buying a drink my friend added another for me to pay for (which was fine, happy to buy her a drink of course) but then she went and gave it to a nearby beggar – so of course we were then inundated by the 100!


Arti October 24, 2010 at 9:53 am

Hi Sharell,
A very interesting post once again Sharell..
Yes the begging business(if I may call it so) is big in India..
But then there are always those really needy ones that I feel bad for!!
Luckily I have never had the need to hit a begger till now..

My Yatra Diary…


Jen October 24, 2010 at 11:00 am


I love reading your comments. It sounds like I’m writing them! (Except I’m not a good writer..hehe). The arm hair, honking, people coming to the door all the time etc – it’s so familiar to me, even though I’ve only been there 3 times. Let me tell you a story from Mumbai to Melbourne – I am from Melbourne, have been married to a man from Mumbai for the last 12 years. His parents were visiting us in Melbourne and I have very rarely seen beggars in Melbourne, but of course there are some. Anyway, we are in a car near fitzroy street with his parents and a well dressed white woman started begging!!!! This has never happened to me before, and it was quite ‘funny’ that is was happening with 3 Indians with me who were quite used to it…..…….

My sister-in-law who lives in Mumbai carries biscuits with her and hands them out. This helped me, as my time in Mumbai (with dyed blonde hair) was a bit difficult in this area.

Anyway, congratulations on your good work and I am extremely impressed with your efforts to make it work in India. No one can really understand what it’s like unless they have lived it. I love Bombay (sorry, Mumbai), it has the best buzz of anywhere I’ve ever been.


Parishkar October 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm

An unpleasant experience. Should not have happen. Feel Sorry for you.

Normally, I am the first person to read your posts. However I avoid to comment as I never have much to say. But this time I think I should..

Not every beggar is gangsterised, Not every person in need should be looked upon so. I would avoid the term beggar – as an opposition to this post and to your references in my comment below.

Remember, some people can be corrupt, not everyone. If such is the case, then it would be baloney.

It is really very unfortunate, if someone has to act in such a manner for living. May be you will laugh; but few of these people also have some principles. I would like to share three experiences.

1. At times, I have tried to help people in need. Once I offered food to a person in Need and he denied saying that he has already received donation for one meal that day and would accept no further help as it would be against his principles. I asked why he is doing so only for earning one meal a day. If he accepts my help, he would not have to worry about the second meal or remain hungry. He answered that he would work and earn money till the food he has eaten would provide him strength and if he earns enough he would not have to ask for donation any more. I tried to offer him some money instead of food but he denied that also.

2. For a period of 10-12 days a lady used to come with a small baby in her lap at the morning tea stall near my house. It’s my habit to have tea there at six o’clock after morning walk. Have given her a rupee or two a couple of times. She would stop asking for donation as soon as she can collect 10 rupees. Then she would purchase snacks from the tea stall, feed the baby and then move forwards. Once i offered her a ten-rupee note, she told me.

Bhaiya mere ko paanch rupye pahle hi mil gaye hain, aap bas paach hie de do. utne me kaam chal jayega. maine poocha sirf 10 rupye mein tum dono ka kaam kaise chalega. To usne kaha ki baccha subah subah kuch kha le, use apni chinta nahi, wo kaam dhoond rahi hai, vyavasta hote hi khana kha legi.

She stopped coming to that tea stall after a couple of week and I almost forgot about her until I saw her working in Shops in the nearby locality. She would visit the shops early in the morning when the shopkeepers open the shop. Would clean the shop with broom, mop with wet cloth and leave for another shop. This way she started earning and have stopped asking donations. She has been working in the shops since last one year or so.

3. Have met a physically disabled person in need, who would ask for donation only in the day time and would sleep hungry even if he could not collect enough money for his one meal at dinner.

Mai raat ko aksar building ki chatt par ghumne jaata huin aur maine use mohalle ki shuruat par footpath par jaagte dekha hai. Mohalle ke chowkidaar aur police ka kahna hai, ki wo ek additional security ka role ada karta hai. Iss area mein aur raat ki chori na hone ki sambhavna badh jaati hai.

All my above three experience does not fit with formula of your post.

I am a bit surprised. How can you have such an opinion after having experience with charities in Calcutta. Have written much and I found my thoughts against your notion on the topic. No offense Sharell ! Sorry but I disagree.


Sharell October 25, 2010 at 2:36 pm

I am a bit surprised. How can you have such an opinion after having experience with charities in Calcutta. Have written much and I found my thoughts against your notion on the topic. No offense Sharell ! Sorry but I disagree.

Hi Parishkar, no offense taken and I’m glad you highlighted these the plight of these people. I just wish there were more like them… not those beggars who are part of gangs and literally harass people into giving money, which are the majority in Mumbai. I wish I could collect all these poor people like the ones you mentioned, take them home, clean them up, and feed them. My experience working in a women’s centre in Cal was just that… helping the underprivileged women who were there, and came there for help. It was a project that empowered women and gave them training to help them generate an income for themselves. It’s a whole different world compared to the ruthless professional beggars of Mumbai.

I will give if I know the person will directly benefit from it, but not if they continue to harass me and touch me (after I’ve told them politely and then angrily not to), and not if the money is going to support a gang and its boss… after all that money is what keeps the gang sustained.


parishkar October 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Bhagirathi – It seem that the person was not in a geniune need of help. But please check yourself. These articles portray that as if every “person in need is’ like the ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip”. However I would remind you of two references.

1. Baba Bharti and Khadagsingh story over purchasing the horse named “sultan”

remember that line ‘ khadagsingh kisi ko yeh mat batana ki ghoda tumne kaise hasil kiya, varna duniya ka jarurat mando par se vishwas uth jayega”

and then khadag singh returned the horse and apologized for his act.

2. A real story, just do not remember the names. An actor was visited by a lady and asked for monetary help as she needs money for treatment of her child ( a cancer patient). The actor immediately gave her the money. Later that week, one of the friends of the actor told him that the girl has actually cheated him and that the child is safe.

The actor replied that the friend has actually made his day by telling that the child is safe from the dreaded disease. Money lost is really insignificant. he was really worried whether the child would be safe or not with the treatment.


parishkar October 24, 2010 at 4:47 pm

So Bhagirathi ! there may be fake persons among them but labeling everyone as a cheat would result in non-helping a really genuine person of need. Sau cheaters ko diya paisa bhale hi waste ho jaye, lekin hume yeh aadat nahi chorni chahiye. shayad kisi sacche jaruratmand ko hamara intezaar ho.


Murali October 24, 2010 at 6:31 pm

this is my favorite part of the article

“and I wanted a change. I needed something new, exciting, thrilling, terrifying. And India gave that to me in spades. In fact, she turned it all the way up to 11. And then she turned it up a little more”


also, that deccan article was quite disturbing. I wonder if that nanny has kids of her own.


Kayla October 24, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Sharell, I had a similar experience when I traveled to Delhi in December. We traveled around in a car for the most part, but one time I was in a rickshaw with my boyfriend and his friend. A beggar woman would not leave me alone, even with my boyfriend and friend yelling at her. Fortunately, the rickshaw driver was nice and yelled at her to leave and she finally did. I did everything I could – didn’t make eye contact, leaned back inside, etc. But I’m white as white can be and they know how to work foreigners!

I live in a major city in the US and see beggars all the time and even with them it’s hard to tell whether or not they really need it or not. One time I was out getting lunch and saw this little old man with a sign that said he was hungry. I decided I’d get him some food instead of giving him money. When I drove back around, rolled down my window, and gave him a bag with a burger and fries, he yelled at me. Apparently, he only wanted money. I told him his sign needed to change his sign if he’s not hungry and he got mad. I then drove away and gave it someone else I saw who was appreciative. Sometimes, there are beggars here who tug at my heart strings. Most of the time, I know they need the money to buy alcohol.


Jessica October 24, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Being a foreigner can be such a hassle for this reason. Not only do you have to deal with stares but then you’re an easy target for beggars too. I don’t know how many times I’ve been followed around for, despite my husband yelling at them in Hindi.

In fact, my last trip was the closest I’ve ever come to slapping somebody. We had just walked out of the mall and my husband and I were on our way to the car as the driver had parked outside of the garage and we were surround by 10-15 beggars. They tried to snatch the stuff out of my hands. My hand was raised before I knew it and they still didn’t back off!

I see them and I want to help, but at the same time don’t want to be swarmed.


girlsguidetosurvival October 24, 2010 at 10:47 pm


It is not a pride constest, holier than thou…
We all know beggary is a problem world wide. The difference between Indian beggers and western beggers is of touching your person. Hope you understand how infuriating it is to be touched by a stranger against your will no matter clean or dirty hands.
Secondly, the organized profession of begging is not seen in the west. I am not aware of any social sciences study or media reports on it. If you have one please send us, it will help a lot to understand this phenomenon.

I haven’t checked your links yet but I recommend watching Mahesh Manjrekar’s Traffic Signal (2007).

I am no one to judge anyone, I do not how I would have responded in similar circumstances. My tolerance levels have changed in last half a decade. I do not know how to practice seeing God in everyone your person is threatened or violated.

Desi Girl


Sharell October 25, 2010 at 2:53 pm

The difference between Indian beggers and western beggers is of touching your person. Hope you understand how infuriating it is to be touched by a stranger against your will no matter clean or dirty hands.

girlsguidetosurvival, that’s exactly it! Some days I have more tolerance for it than other days. That day was a particularly bad one. :-( It’s doesn’t help that I have a bit of a reflex action from having done kickboxing and martial arts when I was younger.

By the way, I have seen Traffic Signal. :-)


D. Jain October 25, 2010 at 1:32 am

Oh man, I can see why you would be annoyed, but also why you would have done what you did. It must be so tough to see on a daily basis.

I got hit *by* a beggar in Noida. We were going to a nightclub at a shopping center one evening, and there were some beggar kids in the parking lot. They were following us and begging, and as much as I hate to do it, I ignored them. All of a sudden, one of them (a little girl) just started pummeling me on the hips! I think she just got so frustrated she started lashing out. It was really shocking. I felt guilty for not giving the kids anything, but angry too.


Tarun October 25, 2010 at 2:37 am

I only just recently discovered this rather interesting and very amusing blog.

You are correct that non-Indians are persistently targeted by beggars who are very hard to shake off. (unless they look naturally intimidating). Despite my best efforts, my saintly-looking Japanese colleague had a crowd of Beggars following him around wherever I took him in Bangalore – he was a veritable pied piper. But once when I accompanied a 6’4″ stern-looking German colleague, nobody dared follow him.

A few bits of advice – carry an umbrella and use it to push away the ‘touchers’. The ‘touchers’ basically want to get inside your comfort zone and pester you enough so that you’ll shower them with money just to keep them away. Sadly, this route doesn’t work well for foreigners since even more touchers approach you. A nice big umbrella that you can hide behind or use to maintain distance works wonders. The women of my family always carry an umbrella when moving around in local Indian markets. Purse your lips threateningly and slap the same against your leg for added effect. (like a swagger stick). Try not to laugh doing this or all is lost!

My most frightening encounter with a beggar strangely enough wasn’t in India, but in Munich. Strictly speaking it was more of in the nature of a genteel ‘mugging’ rather than beggary. A girl accompanied with three tough-looking, skinhead-type guys politely asked me for money when I got off a subway a night. Needless to say, I didn’t bother arguing and merely handed over my wallet. To my surprise, she just took 20 Euro (I had over 200 with me at the time), smiled at me and walked away with the men. I guess she was clever enough to know that nobody would lodge a police complaint for 20 Euros and most people would actually be relieved that they survived the experience without hurt.


Sharell October 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Hi Tarun, the idea of an umbrella is a good one. I actually carried a long stick once and waved it around threateningly, but like you said the effect was totally lost because I started laughing. That must’ve been a good day when I was in a more light hearted mood.


joe October 25, 2010 at 8:05 am

hii sharrell
its a good happened once to me. once when i was waiting for bus, a small boy came and started begging.he told today he didnt had his food. so i gave him few money expecting him to buy food with that money. for my shock he went to a pan shop near by the bus stop and brought few pan masala’s with that money. when its over he again came back to me for begging. when i refused he started shouting, pulling my hands searching my pockets for money.i lost my temper and pushed him. after that incident , i never gave money to any begger. when they comes for begging i used to buy few bananas or bread or bun from nearby shop and gives them. i never gave them money after that incident.


Isabelle October 25, 2010 at 11:40 am

Sadly, ignoring remains the best solution. Giving, doesnt help them at all but help only yourself to not feel guilty or escape from something unpleasant. It clearly doesnt solve anything… If a child comes back with money every evening, there is no way that he will be send to school as he seems usefull in this way. It will just maintain the system as it is. There are dozens of organizations dealing with this problem so why not giving through them if ones really want to help…

About hitting, I never got to that point of angriness to say anything on that. Or I guess where I went at that point, the light turned green ;)

Nothing to do with this post but a great thanks to you Sharell, reading your situation makes me feel much more confident about the future. ;)


Osirus October 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm

I live in Beijing (China) and it’s no different here. I’ve been aggressively approached by all sorts of beggars that specifically target foreigners. A few years ago I was going along my merry way when out of the blue, I was grabbed by the arm by an old beggar. I was so infuriated by his aggressiveness that I turned around and pushed him almost knocking him to the ground. To this day I regret doing that because I could have gotten in trouble with the law. Since that incident I have learned to keep my eyes open and detect any beggars within an 100 meter radius so that I have enough time to for a quick escape.


Prashanth October 25, 2010 at 4:24 pm

A couple of years back, I saw a group of beggars harassing a group of foreigners, at Bangalore..I was a bit concerned about that and noticed a police guy standing, a couple of meters away from me. I went and requested him to take care of the situation…Once the police guy started approaching ‘em, the beggars started running away.

Many of these beggars work in groups and have a nice plan/strategy. One day, you see ‘em at some traffic signal and the other day, at some other signal, far off from the first one. Also, they shift their base to some other city, when they think that people have seen ‘em enough…or simply because they are bored.

Also, I heard of a beggar in Bangalore, who has made lots of money from begging..and has a nice telly, sophisticated music system (He probably lets his hair down, after a hard day at work) and also lends money to other people.

All this fake stuff makes it worse for people, who are really suffering. The worst part is when some parents teach and let their kids to beg on streets, while they relax at home, doing nothing. Even after knowing all this stuff, I still give money to some of ‘em, just because I see this from a different perspective…Well, strange are the ways of the world! :P


priya (feistygirl) October 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm

There were occasions when I had to give away my Coke to these kids at the railway station. But then i noticed that they did this with everyone. Not fair! I lost whatever little sympathy i had for them instantly and alerted the railway police who were simply lounging around. It is a real nuisance at times and in a way, day light extortion!!!!


Chris October 25, 2010 at 7:42 pm

For all of my faults ( and I have many ), I can’t say that I have hit a beggar, and I don’t plan on doing so anytime soon, either.

I only hope that the Big Guy in the Sky will weigh that, while despatching me into my next rebirth :-),


priya (feistygirl) October 25, 2010 at 7:51 pm

@ chris:: Lucky you!


Another Indian Woman October 26, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Oh man, you’re so right. I’m an NRI but in India I’ve found that I always feel a mix of pity and then annoyance. Especially when they threaten you. Especially the men dressed as women…the majority, you are right, are not eunuchs, it’s actually just creepy – I used to be so terrified of them as a kid, especially when I found out that they were meant to be neither man nor woman. One threatened to spit on me. That was charming. Actually, my mother often gives beggars food instead of money, or will pour them some water or something. According to her it’s better, she was always cynical about what they did with the money. Poor or not, nobody can be trusted.


TAMASHA! October 26, 2010 at 8:26 pm

After years of working in methadone clinics and alcohol recovery centers in the U.S. I only give food or water to beggars. Too many times I have seen beggars spend donated money on cigarettes, pan, alcohol, etc. Even here in Nepal I’ve seen the beggar kids sniffing glue using discarded plastic milk bags. Beware the beggar that asks you to ‘buy’ something such as baby formula, medicine, or nappies for a supposed ill infant. Most often it is a scam where the beggar will later exchange the sealed item for cash.
I guess dealing with addicts and abusers has given me a rather hostile and intimidating ‘game face’. Beggars usually do not mess with me much. But I still carry lollipops just in case.


Cait October 27, 2010 at 10:06 am

Thanks for posting my article, that was really kind of you. I’m glad you enjoyed it – and it’s always heartening to hear how similar all of our experiences are. Comforting somehow. This is a magical place isn’t it?


Sharell October 27, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Cait, you’re welcome. You’re a fantastic writer… so many of my friends and I have loved and appreciated that article of yours. It touched on so many things that are real to us, living here. And yes, it definitely is magical here. :-)


Nikhil October 28, 2010 at 12:41 am

I suggest you learn some phrases in the local language that mean “no” or “go away” or “want to get slapped?” They may think you’re a local and won’t give money easily and will go away.


Sharell October 28, 2010 at 10:45 am

I suggest you learn some phrases in the local language that mean “no” or “go away” or “want to get slapped?” They may think you’re a local and won’t give money easily and will go away.

Hey Nikhil, I do know…. chal nikal. Ek dega kaan ke niche. :-P But I save that for Mumbai’s men. ;-) I guess I should use it for beggars too.


Prashanth October 28, 2010 at 1:17 am


The next time, a beggar approaches you, you just react by saying this:
“Aye…Apun se paisa mangtha hain…Saala/Saali, Chal Phut!” :P

If you say this, I’m sure they would flee, without lookin’ back! bruhahaha :)


Mohit Gupta October 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm


Please never ever hit a disbaled begger.And before any agreesion come to your mind just think about their plight.They are unpriviledged.Nobody want to live on roads in dirty condition and wearing dirty clothes in the hardest climate.

Even if they are pushy or clever , there is a reason behind that. Everyone is pushy and clever in rich world also.Even if you dont want to give them money , just politely refuse.

See if you give 1 rs per day to every begger you see condidering that you meet one beggar one day and you live for 100 years.You will spend around 36,500 Rupees.

If we deduct the initail and last ages of this duration the amount may come to around 20,000.

Blessing of 20,000 people in JUST 20,000 RUPEES is a win win situation for you.. isnt it? ;)

Not promoting begging but just the concern for those who are really in trouble and need the care and support of the society.In the process , if we happen to give some money to begging-Mafias .. we shouldnt care much…

Government policies are confusing..

They Ban Smoking but promote Tobacco Companies.

They ban alccohol but give out contracts for Liqur Shops.

They ban begging but dont have any plan to eradicate poverty..


JAYESH October 29, 2010 at 9:48 am

You have made my day with “Chal nikal! Ek dega kaan ke niche!”

(It should be ‘doongi’ if you don’t want to sound like a goon. :-))

Now, you are not only ‘Ninja Sharell’ but also ‘Sharell bhai’ !

I will give you a ‘supari’ soon!
I want a couple of people to be ‘tapka’oed! :-D

A friend of mine does this:-

He joins his hands in namaste and says, “Maaf karo! Kuch nahi mere paas!”

I have seen this work and you can try this, too!


Adi October 31, 2010 at 11:11 pm

During my past three and a half years in the United States, I have had a few interactions with beggars. Almost all of them approached me with a good greeting, and maintained proper conduct. If I say, “I don’t have pocket change, I’m sorry,” they politely leave. I remember, back in 2008, a poor homeless guy offered to clean my car, very politely, so that he could pay for the homeless shelter, while I was in the parking lot of a Burger King. I ended up giving that guy $10 and a sandwich I bought for him. It was mostly for his civilized way of approaching people for incidental work and not just begging for free money. I almost find no difference between poor and rich people in the United States when it comes to politeness. I didn’t mean to change the topic. Just sharing my experience with beggars from another culture.


B.N.Rao March 5, 2011 at 9:10 am

There is some religious misconception amongst some pilgrims at famous temples where hoards of beggars camp & get the alms from the pilgrims.Pilgrims think that they can easily wash off their sins with this act of charity as good as having Gangasnan for the same reason.Unless we change our out look in helping the really, deserving needy this industry is sure to thrive!


Daniela July 16, 2011 at 12:14 am

500-1.000 Rupees? I don’t believe it for a moment. But I am sure Middle Class India will feel a lot better about itself reading such nonsense in the “paper”. Seriously, for this to be true for more than a very rare handfull of beggars who happen to scoop off some tourists, any one of those at any signal should have the luck of finding 500 people per day who drop off one rupee (who ever tosses out more than a rupee at once?), and that is only to cover their income. No, if the life of a beggar was such bliss with “their basic needs being taken care of”, I think my maid would defect tomorrow. I remember many years ago there was an article in the paper in Bangalore about a beggar woman that travelled up and down the country for free by train and had huge life insurance policies to her name. This kind of reporting is doing serious injustice to any social work out there, because it lends credibility to all those anecdotes “Oh, I once saw this beggar who….”
No, I do not give money to beggars (except in one of my low moments to buy a bit peace), but I sure won’t attempt something as despicable as trying in my mind to make their life sound in any way easy.


Mahesh August 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Hi Sharell,

Very interesting to read your blogs. The trick is to look at the beggar straight in to his/her eyes and then telling him/her a stern ‘No’. It is very hard to do it but always works. I have also seen some more methodical people carrying apples, Parle G glucose biscuits and hand them out which can benefit the beggars directly. Unfortunately, I am never that methodical and give away money at times just as an easy get away. The menace has started in Pune, my native city as well now (proximity to Mumbai and pangs of growth.

But, again – like your style of writing. Keep blogging.



aobe amber January 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I’m pretty familiar with this topic not even living in India. What made me feel more hopeful for India than my own country is that they actually ‘rent’ children for begging and kids remain ‘alive’. In my country most of the time the beggars put the babychildren on drugs, so they usually lay silent, ‘sleeping’. Sometimes you can’t even say if they are alive. The next day you may find same beggar with other ‘silent’ child. Police does nothing to prevent that, because they are paid to ‘not to notice’ them and sometimes even threaten those who wanted to help to a poor kid. I was threatened once when policeman asked me to ‘fuck off’


Sreekanthnair June 27, 2014 at 2:40 am

It’s a familiar topic, last year I needed a beggar for shooting, nothing much characterize role. My crew members tell me that we can call a drama artist and make up as like a beggar. I am not agree with that concern, finally due to my special interest they found a beggar for shot. He is not much aged but nearly to 50. I asked him why you choose this profession. He tell me for money. However he acted in that two second role, my production control team gives 500 rs for that two second role, but he bargains that he needed 1000 rs, see how the issue is gone. Without finding any other way they agreed his demand.


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