Contrary to what the title of this entry may convey, this blog is not about how crazy living in Delhi sometimes makes me feel. It does, truly, drive me bananas on occasion, but in this case I am referring to the fruit.
On my way to and from work every day, when stopped at stoplights, I am approached by numerous children. They are usually unclean and thin, scurrying in and out of traffic, tapping on car windows, wiping windshields, and approaching rickshaw riders like me. Sometimes children carry a baby or toddler, and almost all make an eating motion to show they are hungry. Some say “chapatti” repeatedly, meaning they need money for bread. I am reluctant to give them money and usually shake my head with a frown on my face because I don’t have anything to give.
My reluctance to give money stems from the fact that a large number of children in South Asia are trafficked into begging. Many of the children who approach my rickshaw may be watched over by a boss who snatches away the money they make. The 5 rupees I give for something to eat most likely would end up in the hands of a man, and the child would receive no assistance.
The most vulnerable children are those with physical disabilities. Poverty and physical disability are the major factors leading to trafficking for begging. Children who are disabled induce sympathy among people giving alms, and children are at a great risk of being deliberately injured to increase their potential earnings. Some children are even drugged so they can be carried, “sleeping,” by beggars in order to create compassion.
This brings me back to bananas. On a recent rickshaw ride with a friend, I once again refused money to children who stood at the side of my rickshaw, saying to my friend I wished I had something to give. She pointed at the bag of bananas I had just purchased. I had completely forgotten about them. I rushed to open the bag and handed the young boy a banana. In a few seconds another appeared on the left, and yet another on the right. Before we left the intersection, I had run out of bananas.
Now I make it a point to buy bananas every now and then on my way home from work. There is a market around the corner, and a bunch of bananas only costs me about 50 cents. Bananas are a good snack, loaded with vitamins and somewhat filling. If I can’t offer money to these children, at least I can give them something healthy to eat. I can always tell which children are hungry and which ones only want money by their willingness to accept food in the place of coins. I wish I could do more for them, but for now, I can just offer bananas.
Posted By Donna Laveriere (India)
Posted Jul 19th, 2006