"I seem to have lost my purse and I have to catch an auto to reach home.Can you help me ,son?"Said an elderly man to me in the busy junction of T.Nagar.He was well dressed and seemed very worried.He seemed coming from work and spoke in fluent English and looked embarrassed to be actually asking for money .It took no time for me to feel really sorry for the man.I gave him the Rs.30 He apparently needed and walked off feeling a lot good over myself.It happened a long time ago and I forgot all about it Until recently, some separate incidents brought back this memory.
The first one was in a busy shopping center in Hyderabad.I was waiting in a car to pick up my cousin.A man knocked on the window.He had a backpack on him and and looked like he was on his way home from work.His request(bordering on demand) was similar to the elderly man from Chennai but he wasn't as polite and didn't seem to be ashamed of asking the money.Though i didn't feel sorry for the man,I gave him off the money as what he demanded was not much.As soon as he left,A beggar woman came running to me and asked for money.As a courtesy i put a small coin in her hand .She didn't move and demanded I give her the same amount I gave the man.This angered me and I told her she cant demand and anyway i wasn't in a position to give her more as I had no more change.Her reply struck me the most.She walked off saying:"You can give five rupees to a physically fit man,But you shout off a handicap who needs it more".Though I didn't take it seriously,I got to admit ,her logic was right.I didn't feel moved at all for a handicap but felt sorry for a person who sure had other ways to reach home.Why was it so?Its not just me.Most of you would have reacted in the same way.
There is this guy called Simon Sinek who says the best way to convince people is not to show facts.It is to relate them to the facts.In the first two cases ,I imagined myself or people close to me losing a purse in an unknown land and roaming aimlessly.Its a nightmare that haunts all of us.So when the old man was asking me I was able to Imagine the state he is in.I was more troubled by his troubles than even he was.which was why I didn't mind giving him any amount of money.But with this beggar woman ,all I see about them is that they are the guys who pester you at every traffic signal.I probably don't have the imagination to actually imagine their troubles and even if i did,I m pretty sure I wouldn't relate to them because I need not have to face them.
Now in the last two weeks,In addition to being begged at almost every traffic signal,every time I'm in a busy place or a bus stop,people came up to me repeating the same old story and in most cases,stating the amount of money I should give them.I began to wonder how many pickpockets were there in Hyderabad.After a couple of instances where i got tricked,I understood that this is the new form of getting free money.These guys need not be in a business school to understand the tricks of trade.They do much better on the streets by themselves.And it was pretty comfortable.You need not beg.No one shouts at you and people seldom get irritated.You tell them how much to give and more often than not,you get what you need.
The next time it happened to me,I was at the railway station waiting for a train that was late by an hour,(having nothing to do)I was observing an old woman who was following this method.Had she been really in need,she would already have got the money needed.It was a matter of time before she came to me.(Actually this was the place I realized this was a new business.)I wasn't impressed by her story and walked off.She caught my friend who wasn't conned by this method ,and tried extracting money from him.I stopped him and this irritated her to no end.She started cursing me and told me to imagine my mom in the situation.
I on my part told her what I thought of their business.
This left my friend amused and he called me insensitive.I told him about all the experiences I had in the department and the new free money menace building up.We drifted off from the topic and the incident was soon forgotten.
But again,what if I was wrong?What if she was an innocent woman in a city of such tricksters ?
Would I be helping people who are in such need again?...
would I ever feel sorry for them like I felt for the old man or would I just brush them off ?
Am I becoming wise or Am I becoming insensitive?Or does becoming one imply the other?
How do I know?