to 'The Taming of a Beggar' 25 March 2005)
was furious. In his native dialect he went on a verbal rampage.
He had seen me approaching the Shahbagh junction from a distance.
He stormed towards me. He was not even limping.
It was always my suspicion he was not as helpless as he pretended
to be. Most often aid seekers give a sorry account of themselves
to get additional aid from donors. Governments of even the
LDCs are guilty of simulating such economic depravity. At
his individual level he was no different. Gone was his initial
subdued reaction after our group had met to decide his fate.
'You Mister!' he began. 'Why do you write about me in English
paper? You want to ruin my image abroad!'
'Why are you all concerned with abroad only? What about your
image here, amongst your own people?'
'It's all to do with bideshi aid. You will not understand.'
'How many foreigners give you alms?'
'I told you, you will not understand.'
'What happened to your lathi?' I ask.
'For a person who is not giving any vikkha you ask
too many questions. Since I do not need your aid, it is not
necessary for you to see the lathi every time you
pass by. You saw it before, did you not, huh? Now about the
'Our meeting of donors was to find out some means of helping
you.' I try to be polite.
The chap was unstoppable. 'You don't have to show us any mercy.
We do not require your money if that has to be taken under
your conditions. If you agree to our conditions you may use
this junction, otherwise you may leave.'
'I do not see any WE, all I see is you. Who are WE?' I managed
to put in.
'I am we. Everybody is here. Can't you see?'
'But the streets around here look deserted…'
'Everyone else has gone for work. We are very hard working
people, you know. I am here to give you and TV cameras interviews
throughout the day.'
'Those who are not here may have something to say about the
issue of you bullying them.'
'I alone am enough to talk to you since I represent the people
'But you seem to have driven away every one of your competitors
from the street', I said hoping for the lights to turn green.
'Don't worry. I am very popular around here. I shall reign
for another 25 years. No! Let me correct that… till
'I am not sure I understand the tone in your voice. You have
suddenly changed your stance. Last week you appeared to have
accepted our terms.'
‘Shaheb! Last week was last week? Itihaash!
Last week I did not get the signal from my big huzoor.'
'And now you have a signal…?' I let my voice hang in
'What am I telling you? I have been advised to be rude to
my little donors.'
'Big donor is also very powerful. If he is with me I have
no bhoy, no dawr.'
'But how can you be sure of his continuing support?'
'History says he is always with the tyrant. And you said I
'…or something to that effect.'
'What if he betrays you?'
'I look after his economic interests in this region. So I
also have some hold on him… indirectly, that is.' The
'So you want to go back to your days of oppressing your opposition,
depriving others their share, terrorising people…'
'As advised sir, as advised.'
'What if they all turn against you?'
'None of them have that much gut. Do you think I became a
neta in this elaka by frying bhendi?'
'That's a good thought. How did you become a neta?'
'I should not be teaching you any of the tricks, lest you
give a kick in my stomach. (sniggers) But, since I know you
well I will let you in on some of the rules of the game. Above
all, in this business of survival, you shall have to rule
by force for which again you need to be conspiratorial; pitch
that beggar against this beggar and so on. Also you will need
to be a master liar. One truth from you and your reign here
is finished. The good news is nowadays it is easier to convince
people with falsehood than with facts. I am only taking advantage
of the situation.'
'But are not the common people aware of the hanky panky?'
'Firstly, they are busy with their own dhandaa. Secondly,
they have seen this cycle before and are frustrated for the
time being. Thirdly, since I am in power, they are scared.
Fourthly, many are falling sick due to pollution.'
'But if we donors, little as you put it, don't pay you on
a regular basis, how will you survive?'
'You will pay. My big brother will tell you to pay. Otherwise
there will be more awshanti. My big brother is also
conspiratorial and a liar. Ahhh! My guru! He will make sure
you small donors start fighting each other. The whole city
will then start to burn. It has been done before. First World
War, Second World War, Third World War…Only you did
not realise. Surely, you do not want to be in that hot soup.'
'Where do you get such bizarre ideas from?'
'Global politics sir, global politics!' The beggar bares his
teeth to show his disdain and continues, 'You can go now'.
'But the lights have not turned green…'
'Go! The traffic sergeant is waving you on to move through
the red light.'
'They always do that, but why?'
'Maybe it's his way of telling the world that the green and
red of 1971 has gone vice versa.'
'Strange for a beggar to be so informed,' I mutter to myself.
'May be one day you and I will also be vice versa. It has
happened before.' He guffaws again.
By then the lights were really green.
In the end they usually are.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005