Friday, November 25, 2011

Talk to Me

All you readers, you lurkers, you frequent commenters. I want you to answer me, here.

I wasn't going to blog about this. But by one of those weird coincidences, I read this post on Banno's blog that led me here. And that made me want very much to talk about it.

After the Weekender festival on Saturday, we came out a little hungry after all the jumping around to Pentagram. So we (the Guy, a friend and I) went to Pune's famous kathi-roll place. As we stood on the sidewalk eating, a little boy came along, helping a disabled man.

He was small, and looked hungry. He poked us and held his hand out. We ignored him, shooed him away. He whined to (I assume) his dad, and came back again. We kept eating.

I had a moment of shock when I realized how callous I'd become. The Guy went to fetch one last roll as the counter closed. It might be important to the story to state that I don't (rather, I hate it so much that I can't) eat raw onion. And rolls are usually liberally spiced with chopped onion, unless you particularly ask them to refrain. So when the Guy came back with a roll and said, "They gave ours to someone else: this has onions," it made the decision much easier. I bent down and handed the paper plate to the little guy.

The Guy said later that he heard the man refusing the food, asking his son to eat it all.

I have felt guilty since. Did the man stay hungry? What about the next day, and the day after? Did they get anything to eat? Why didn't I give them some money before they went away?

(And also: what kind of society are we that we let this happen around us so often? But that's a whole big question in itself.)

So tell me: is there anything you do to help stop this? What charities do you donate to? The Guy and I have been thinking about this quite a bit in the last few months, and trying to find the charities that make sense to us, the causes we'd like most to support. But most of all, to start with, I think I'd like to help a few more people not be hungry.

What can we do? Tell me: I want to hear from you.

19 comments:

Deborah said...

Though I have never visited India, everything I have read, and heard from people who have been there, suggests that this is a much more pressing problem for you than it is for me in New Zealand. In New Zealand terms, I am wealthy, and if a beggar (we have a few) asks me for money, I usually find some money for them.

My inclination is to give a few coins when asked. But although there are people living in poverty in New Zealand, homeless people and beggars are uncommon. So my experience and approach won't translate across the oceans....

Unmana said...

Thank you, Deborah. Unfortunately, this is an extremely common sight in India. This struck me more forcibly because it came after a while: I don't use public transport, my office is near enough and I haven't gone out as much in recent months.

And while I can hand out enough money for a meal, the question of where the next meal might come from haunts me. Where do they sleep? What will the child do when he's grown up? How will he ever gain the skills to be anything but desperately poor?

We still have so many people starving. It makes me feel extremely guilty, extremely callous, that I can go to a restaurant and have a nice dinner in peace.

Gayatri said...

- Poverty....sigh!
- U find it EVERYWHERE....
- I don't encourage healthy people/children begging.I wish these ppl could get a job/study.I wish somebody could do something about that.
- All I do is give Old/disabled people some money when I get the chance
- If u have the heart,time and money...'Charity' is the easiest thing to do in India...

Unmana said...

Gayatri: I meant, how do you solve the problem? What charities do you donate to that help homeless and hungry people? (*Not you personally, but charities that you know of, that are worth supporting.)

Gayatri said...

- I think more than any specific place it's better to do something direct like buying some food packets and giving it away to people in need on the streets (if ur regular and stick to one location u'll have a considerable crowd coming - This happens at a small shridi sai temple close by)
- There are so many problems that can be addressed...not only hunger or shelter..even medical aid...pick up the Hindu and everyday you have a person requesting for money for treatment...send them a little sum..(That's something I have in mind)
- If u want something specific...google out an orphanage/old age home close by, visit them a couple of times, check if they are genuine and sponsor a meal (usually the genuine ones will let u be there when they serve the meal)

Unmana said...

Gayatri: 1) Yes, but what if it's late at night and there isn't anything to buy (like up in my post: even the stall we were eating at had closed before we were done). And I'm afraid I don't want to spend time doing this: I'd rather spend money. Still, this is a great idea, and maybe I should get over my laziness and do something like this.

2) Friends of Children does offer medical aid once in a while (and sometimes, the Guy or I personally offer it too) but that's a separate problem.

3) Again, orphanages and old age homes address other problems; I was just wondering what I can do to help someone who's actually starving. It seems to take so little to feed someone, even once a day for a year. I'd be very happy to sponsor that if I knew how.

Ham Actor said...

I would suggest this NGO
http://www.akshayatrust.org/

Unmana said...

Ham Actor: Thank you! That's exactly the kind of organization I meant.

Arundhati said...

At the NGO I am associated with,
sponsoring a meal for one child for an year costs as little as Rs. 1200. You can take a look at the mid-day meal programme @ http://www.samarthanam.org/Donate_to_Samarthanam

-Another guilty person delurking

AMODINI said...

Goonj and AID-India are 2 great charities. They do have Delhi chapters, not sure of Pune though.

batulm said...

Unmana, I know several organizations in South Mumbai which help to feed street kids. Don't know any names in Pune. But will ask my brother and pass them on. He does help out a few organizations there. Another friend just keeps packs of Glucose biscuits to hand out from his car whenever someone comes begging, better than handing over money. However, having worked for a long time on documentaries, one particularly on street kids, I've realized it's quite complex to help on a regular level, unless you get involved. There are no easy answers to studies, jobs, shelter. Not for the numbers we are talking about. The best one can do, if one is not actively involved with some NGO or charitable organization is help on a day-to-day basis, as much as one can.

Unmana said...

Arundhati: Thank you for delurking. And thanks very much for the suggestion.

Amodini: I didn't know you read me! :)

I have checked out Goonj before and they seem to do fantastic work. My efforts to donate clothes to them have never worked out though (but they seem to have an office in Pune now, so let me check them out).

AID-India looks good too: thank you!

Banno: Yes, I used to keep biscuits to give street kids when I was in Delhi. Right now, I only have a short commute and don't meet any on the way.

I know you're right: there are no easy answers. I can't (or won't, if you look at it that way) donate much of my time, but I can donate some money...

Thanks for responding, and it would be great if you can share more about organizations in Pune.

readingthroughrsmind said...

I have stopped giving money to these people...I would rather give something to eat..but you know Unmana, sometime last year, one kid came to RD (hubby) and asked him for money to eat...RD told him come with me, I will buy you something to eat..and the kid replied no I want money...RD told him incase you want for someone else also, I will buy you food...but I will not give you money..and the kid went away..without the food..RD was pretty confused..

and honestly at least in Mumbai, I think they have a racket...I have seen the same kid (1 month to 6 months old) with 3 different ladies at the same signal on 3 different occasions all claiming to be his/her mother! how is that possible? and it seems the money given to these people is often used to buy drugs and not food :(

My parents have this funda in life..they support the children's education of our maids and stuff..something that both RD and I have started doing...we give money to our maids/milkman/etc someone we know, who need the money, for their education, books, clothes etc..at least that ways we know the money is not misused...

Sorry long comment!

Unmana said...

readingthrough: We do support our domestic help if we find out they need help, or just buy their children stationery or something. But then while they're not well-off, I don't think they go hungry. And yes, I agree that money might be misused, which is why I'd rather donate to an organization that provides them food and other services rather than give them the money directly.

shemuses said...

Delurking here. Don't know how I got to your blog, but I've been reading it from the time you were doing your short story. Loved it.

Also, may I say reading your post on the NH7 weekender broke my heart a bit? I was supposed to go, tickets booked etc, but last minute stuff happened :'(

I steadfastly refuse to give to beggars at traffic lights. And sometimes feel guilty about it..

If you're (still) looking for places to give, may I recommend Milaap? www.milaap.org

Full disclosure: I work here, so I might be a bit biased in thinking we're pretty kickass :)

~ S

Unmana said...

shemuses: Oh, but milaap looks awesome! I will definitely look more into it. I have amazing readers. :)

abodeofhorus said...

Was coming back to blogging and reading around - this topic touched a note.. so my 2 cents...

Yes, as someone said, there are so many that misuses the money, and dupes you - so they only take cash and no kind !

And to me helping someone always needs a human touch- just giving some money and feeling I am done is so far from heart. Just think, if someone is begging you for money even at the dead of the night, he/she knows where to use it to get food, if they really are hungry! And looking at the face happy eating a meal is blissful. I know we all are short of time, but every now and then - if we can just be there - beside them, I feel its much greater help than just donating or giving away money !

Stonyb said...

I am from the United States...and poverty and hunger is also a pressing problem here. Many people live without shelter and without good food to eat on a regular basis. Though there are those who sek to take advantage of the good nature of people, there are also those who are in honest need. We have many facilties, churches and other organizations which go to great lengths to help feed, clothe, and shelter these people. and the economy is so tough right now that it is becoming ever more difficult to keep up with the demand. Society here, in America,is becoming hardened in my opinion to the needs of these people. Why is it we cannot see the value of every person as equal? And look down upon those without what we have, and expect them to be able to gain these things for themselves. You may never know thje circumstances that placed them in this situation,or what keeps them there. But it has been said you would learn much by walking a mile in their shoes. I once knew an older lady, who took much pity on these poor people. Every saturday and sunday, She would cook a pile of food, and travel to the places she saw these people regularly, and offer them a dinner and her prayers. If there ever was a saint in this time of society and rough civilization, this kind woman would be considered so. Donations of warm clothes and food are always welcome to those who are in need, and are cheap and effective ways for a single person to make a difference..

Unmana said...

Stonyb: Thank you for your lovely, insightful comment. "Why is it we cannot see the value of every person as equal?" That right there, I think, is the root of the problem. Thank you.