Beggars

 

Many soft-shelled Westerners are shocked when first confronted with the seemingly unlimited suffering on the city streets of Asia or Africa. Men without limbs lie on streets holding plastic cups with their lips, pregnant women wail for alms, little children with sad eyes roll in the mud and blind mongoloids play heartbreakingly bad on some ancient instrument. Yes, it is terrible… but look twice before you donate. 

I remember a little girl with her two puppies: She slept on the busiest piece of sidewalk in town, right next to the stench and dirt of a roaring six lane road. People might have stepped on her or the dogs at any time. If you love kids and puppies, like most humans, seeing them helpless and without shelter in the filth seems too much to bear.

But, when passing that area more often, you will realize that she sleeps there only on Tuesdays and that the puppies change every month or so. Also, the dogs are strangely calm, not like normal puppies at all. 

One Tuesday you will see the girl sneaking out of a taxi a couple of hundred meters up the road. In the car sits an elderly woman with three or four other girls and a lifeless heap of puppies.

They are professionals. The girls and the dogs are being used by a hard-shelled mother (if one may call this a mother). The puppies are probably drugged and die regularly, the girls never get to see a school and learn to sleep in the dirt as a profession.

The worst thing, in a twisted way, is to give them money for their performance.

Better leave a tip with that taxi driver. At least he works for a living.

Then, on the other hand, try not to harden too much and keep an eye out for people truly needing help. They are often the ones who don’t ask.


The West’s Romance with Poverty

Sri Lanka's Stilt Fishermen

Yesterday I watched a report about Sri Lanka on discovery channel: The usual images of beaches, temples and smiling people.

The report closed with a longing sunset scene of those uniquely Sri Lanka fishermen sitting on sticks in the water.  The commentator’s fade-out comment: “Here in Sri Lanka, where work is still a pleasure.”  Beg your pardon? I have tried to sit on those sticks and managed to stay up there no more than ten minutes. The sun burns brutally from the sky and the water. Thus grilled from both sides, one sits there, the shaky stick-structure digging into the flesh while the sea salt eats at your skin. It is terrible.
Even with lots of training it will never be a pleasure. Sure, one gets used to everything but why then abolish torture? 
Those men sit there every day of their lives, from the age of eight or ten when they are old enough for their own “stick” to the day they are too old to climb upon the stick and die. No retirement fund there.   On the other hand I have seen the TV teams in the luxurious resorts along the coast. If they do not enjoy their work, then who will?

It seems somewhat ungrateful to envy the fishermen. Poverty is not romantic, nor honest.
It has bad teeth and dies early.”