Sunday, June 19, 2016

Two types of begging in Bangalore...there are many types. I got photos of two!

There are a thousand and more types of begging and beggars in India. Here are two who obliged me when I asked to take their photos. The first is a guy dressed as Hanuman and begging in streets around Avenue road and KG road in Bangalore. The next is a girl(who is not in the photo) who was leading this 'Kole Basava' or the 'holy bull' around the streets of Gandhi Bazar. I saw several Hijras begging/demanding money in the streets of Bangalore too. These are men dressed as women(it's a bit more complex than that). Most people give money more due to religious reasons, religious fear or  religious superstitions. For example this guy is dressed like a Hindu God Hanuman and giving him money is probably like giving a donation to Hanuman himself! Giving money to the girl with the bull is like giving money to Nandi and getting the blessings of Shiva or Nandi. "Not" giving money to a Hijra is supposed to bring bad luck (as they curse you and their curses supposedly come true!)



The other types of begging folks I have seen in Bangalore whom I can recall are:
(1)I remember aged and handicapped folks sitting near the entrances of temples begging the temple devotees for money. I remember my grandmother giving 5 paise to one beggar and asking him or her to give 2 paise to the one sitting next to him! And often fights ensued between the  two beggars, thanks to my grandmother's 'largesse'! My grandmother would observe the beggars and give to those she deemed as aged or handicapped and not to others!
(2)I remember the unfortunate people who suffered from leprosy begging. I always wondered who took the money from them (when they wanted to buy things I mean) when most of us feared touching them for fear of getting infected.
(3) There was a guy who whipped himself horribly with a rope and his accompanying ?wife, would collect money from the people. he would go door to door and also beg at open places such as temples and markets.
(4)I recall young children and mena nd women of all ages  who came outside each house and  called out "Kavala thai. Kavala" . Loosley translated, it means,"Food mother. Give food.". They collected the 'liquedy' food given by householders in a 'single' vessel. This is food like sambar and rasam and butter milk. They collected the rice and chapaties i.e. dry food in  a dirty-looking cloth bag and I found this utterly gross!  If I remember right, they came at supper time for food i.e. after dark.

(5)I don't know if people who sing or 'do something' can be called beggars or not. One way of looking at it is calling it begging or giving alms for charity. Another way of  looking at it is that  they are giving the public a service (albeit unsolicited !) and if the public chooses to give them some money, it is 'paying' them for a service and it's not begging. Many many people come in this category. The singers who sing in trains, bus-stands, outside temples, etc. The singers who dress like mendicants and carry a single string musical instrument and sing. Some or rather many had piercing voices and I think people gave them money so that they moved away from them ! Some of their voices were unbearable piercing. The guy who goes from door to door asking for alms and also carrying an image or photo of God. I remember a guy who had a photo of Shanimahatma, hanging by his neck and the photo was at his stomach and chest level. People were fearful of Shanimahatma and he would get quite a collection walking around with this photo hanging by his neck! Several people in religious garbs such as saffron coloured clothes beg. They belong to different faiths as observed by their appearance. the Shiva Bhaktas/devotees sport the vibhuti on their foreheads and the devotees of Vishnu will be differently dressed such as having a long red nama on their forehead. I recall one who had a copper plate and he would bang it with a short wooden stick when he was asking for alms. There was another who would hit the gong and also blow from a conch shell. There wee also small families going round singing and one of the singers had a harmonium suspended round his neck. I cannot imagine carrying that heavy weight round my neck the whole day, for a few rupees!

I really admired the beggars in villages who walked miles begging for alms from one village to another in the hot burning sun! They got very little for their efforts as most people are either too poor or simply don't give.

When I recall more of them, I will add to this list.

Now I would like to talk briefly(as I can recall only a little!) about their bowls. The bowls used for begging themselves are quite interesting. The most interesting for me(then) was a beggar's huge conch shell. People would throw coins into it. Many had aluminium bowls. My ears still ring, as I recall the rattle of coins as they lifted the bowls in up and down movements at the people passing by asking for alms!  Some beggars had enamel bowls and I wondered where they got those! I have seen enamel containers only in hospitals and no where else. Where did they get them from is still a mystery to me.

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