Where-ever I have travelled in the world I have encountered homelessness and begging. From the streets of the UK to the USA, Brazil and India; it is ubiquitous. They all have their stories and reasons – some good; some bad. They are the residue of society; the ones who do not fit in; who have no place. It is as if they have been discarded and thrown aside like the rubbish in the street.
Yet they are people.
My last visit to India had its share of beggars but not as many as I remembered. Perhaps India is on the up? Or perhaps Chennai is not as bad as Delhi? I do not know.
My observations in India seem to suggest it is the old who beg. Perhaps there is no pension to be paid? Or perhaps their families no longer care for them? Or perhaps it is the culture? There is a culture that encourages people to give up worldly pursuits and all possessions and embark upon a spiritual quest. All they have are their robes and a begging bowl. I am not saying that the beggars I saw were on a spiritual quest. Somehow I doubt that. But maybe the culture encourages begging and the giving of alms?
Another interesting observation I have made is that beggars tend to congregate around places of worship. Perhaps they believe that the pious are more generous? Or else that they can prey on guilt?
I saw a number sleeping on the hard concrete. How difficult it must be to bathe and keep clean – particularly in such heat.