Saturday, September 08, 2007


This is one of the essential traits you should develop to live in this world. It’s better to be hard hearted and be streetwise than to empathize and make a fool of yourself.

And this was a lesson I learnt the hard way, or rather the light way.. because my purse ended up being lighter.

Some days ago, one evening I was a wee bit late for my office drop. I could see the buses zoom past in front of me. An instinctive reflex was to run faster to see if I could manage to get into my bus. As I was running I heard someone. (The converstion was in hindi .. I’ve translated it here).

“Do you know hindi?”

It was a woman with her family. They looked like they were from the lower strata of society, and yet dressed as neatly as they could afford to. Along with her was her husband and her son, her sister, her sister’s spouse and her niece.

I affirmed that I did.

They were in dire straits. Extreme helplessness radiated out of them.

Now earning a decent pay package brings out the social server in you. Call it guilt of living in luxury in a poor country or what ever you may. You tend to feel that you should help society, help the poor, have compassion on the afflicted.. and flavors of these emotions go on and on.

So I slowed down and lent her my ear. This slack let all of them open up. It was like a volcanic eruption of multiple rueful voices. In all this pandemonium I managed to figure out that they lost their luggage, and that they didn’t have money to feed their children. I sensed a fraud. So I told them I didn’t have any money.

Her response made me feel awful. More than the words, the expressions accompanying what she said forced me to change my perspective. She said that she didn’t need money. She just wanted me to help them get back to Maharashtra. She just wanted me to help them get back home. They looked helpless, and I was moved. Before I could realize it, I was digging into my purse for an amount fair enough to get them something to eat. At that moment I could not think of anyone who could probably help them get back home.

The money I gave them wasn’t enough to take them home. I could sense that it didn’t make them happy. But.. what if it was not a true story? Atleast I would be happy that I didn’t get royally duped. But.. what if they were really really really in need of help? At least the little money I gave them would get them a decent meal, at least till some Good Samaritan came to their rescue. So that was it. My purse felt lighter, but I carried a complacent feeling back with me. Happy that I helped someone in need. And whether I was duped or not, I still had a human in me. And that is something I was happy about. God would be happy with me for that. At least I wont be sent to hell directly, God would probably give me a concession .. :-D.

I decided I would keep this to myself. Like they say, when you make an offering with you right hand, don’t let you left hand know that. The effect of the good deed gets diluted. Another reason was the fear that people would take away the happy feeling from me by telling me that I was duped. The doubt of being duped is different from knowing that you were actually duped. And my fear ended up being true the next day.

A colleague in one of the buses had seen me give them money. And it seems this is a racket going on in Bangalore. It has happened to a lot of people. A group of people posing like travelers who lost their luggage ask you for help. The fact that they done know the local language makes you stop by to help them. And the worst part is that they snipe when they know that you are in a hurry.. probably realizing that you are preoccupied and you wouldn’t think for a long time. You would either give in or shun them. But its worth a try.

I admire their smartness and acting skills. That was a great performance. There is a lot to learn from them. “Induce empathy and your work will be done” is the mantra of the day. But to outsmart them you have to be “HARD HEARTED”.


Blogger Contemplation said...

Its a tricky one... I've heard stories of either side... genuine ones... and fake ones...

If we had some time in the world... one thing would be to take them to the nearby Police Station, and let them do the explaining to the cops... and help them in front of the cops... But, it would take atleast an hour or two... and some unforseen consequences... if that fellow is a sought after criminal... you might end up running around the court as witness... and what not... there are other umpteen sources of entertainment...

Being good or being bad has its consequences, but its usually the counter consequence of being good that seems unjust...!

So choose...!!!

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ROTFL......Didn't know that you could be taken for a ride this way. Anyways i have a simpler theory. Help as much as you want. But do so in any way other than the monetary one. If they are hungry, buy food; if they are lost, guide them to the police station etc....But even in this case you might get the snigger from them. Once during one of my walks, a lady with a child in tow stopped me and started giving me stories about how the kid had not eaten anything for 3 days. While i did have seconds thoughts abt the same, it was difficult to walk away. And so i asked to come along to the bakery on the opposite side. And that's when she changed her story and claimed that she needed money for injection. Anyways I did manage to get her and the child a cold drink. But no cash :-)...Anyways you need to be more smart...olle bakra

8:39 AM  

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