I am sure all those living in Pakistan must have experiences with beggars. You go out in the market and they gather around like a swarm of bees. They don’t budge until you pay them ‘something’. At times some of them (especially the kids) don’t hesitate to pull a corner of your sleeve to get your attention. I have to say that I LOATHE it.
I have been noticing and observing beggars since childhood. They were of various types. Like the majority of them were Afghanis. There is a whole generation of beggars that grew up with me. I remember there used to be an Afghani kid who would always roam around in the market that we used to frequent for groceries. Sometime later he started selling sweets/chewing gums and would used to sell forcefully an item or two whenever he would see my brother. Then he disappeared and several months later when I saw him he had grown into a young man selling odd things.
I still call those kids beggars who apparently sell sweets etc. because they force things on you. So once I was in the market, waiting in the car, when a (beggar) kid stopped by. He was holding a worn out small carton, which had chocolates and chewing gums in it. He asked me to buy some. I said I don’t need any. He said, buy some for kids. I said I don’t have kids. He kept on knocking on the window and mumbling something. I got irritated and told him sternly that I don’t want to buy anything. He left murmuring; you would have bought something to please me. I was miffed. Like really why on earth I was supposed to buy sub-standard stuff from him just to ‘please’ him? And then it is not just about one kid, the others gather and beg you to buy something from them too. Sometimes I think it is tough for them but one can’t always buy things from them either.
Similarly, I think I have the maximum number of prayer books, Surah Yasin, how to offer Namaz, Hajj guides, special supplications etc. etc. The guys on Arbab Road (Saddar) would forcefully sell those books on people. I would tell them that I already have those books and they’d say you can gift them to dear ones. Those guys were really stubborn and would emotionally blackmail in the name of religion. Later on, if something would have gone wrong you would definitely think in your mind that it happened because you didn’t buy that prayer book which wasn’t a good omen.
I have seen many beggars with physical and mental disabilities, young and old, men and women but once I was totally bewildered to see a couple of young girls who were dressed in proper clothes, their faces were covered with the shawls they were wearing and one of them had a document folder – sort of folder that is used to carry around certificates/degrees/diplomas/transcripts etc. She had several medical prescriptions securely arranged in that folder. She showed me one, and asked me to help her buy the medicine. I had seen many men and women before who would ask for help so that they could buy the medicines. But they would always be filthy, dressed in rags and usually old people. These women were young and one of them was using English words too along with Pushto. Like she said, she would be grateful if I ‘help’ (English) her to buy ‘medicines’ (English) she couldn’t afford them because they were ‘expensive’ (English). My jaw dropped because no such person, using clear English words and holding a 150 Rs. document folder, has ever come begging to me. I did help her a bit. I don’t know what forced her to beg. I am certainly not one of those people who quiz such people by offering them to buy medicines instead of paying them money. But it did leave me in a bad taste for sure.
To be honest we all act like emotional beggars at some point in life when we beg for a little bit of mercy, some love and an emotional support from someone. But then whoever coined that maxim did great that ‘everything is fair in love in war’. Emotional begging may be acceptable. But financial begging… May God save us from that!