Mercantile Mendicancy

Mercantile Mendicancy

Begging has become a business in India. Many corporate honchos would shy away by the meticulous territorial planning beggar community does. Areas are distributed amongst communities, and sometimes, as dowry particular areas are given to the groom.

Samrat Sinha

In corporate life we have pretty clear views on what constitutes business and we chase each other to be one up in the rat race.

Cut to a salesman, he can vouch that business is sales and nothing else. Similarly, a customer services turk would sing hosannas on business being service….

But, in this piece we shall have some other perspective on business.

On our daily commute, at every traffic light /intersection we see myriad groups of beggars transacting on their daily begging chores.

The air is that of a legit occupation, full of passion, planning and execution. There is a strict hierarchy and geographic segmentation among the community. So much so that some areas are strictly reserved for the aged, some for children and a few are the exclusive preserve of eunuchs. So much akin to the demographics the marketing folks love to bandy around.The respective areas are lorded and guarded with utmost vigil lest any encroachments happen and cause revenue loss! Yes Begging is Business.

The beggars' understanding of the human psyche would put many a venerable psychologist to shame; they know exactly what emotion to whip up or which feeling to turn on. The desired results are - spread wallets and loosened purse strings of the patrons preyed upon.

Here, we are not talking about the unfortunate destitute or handicapped mendicants but the pest of mankind who have embraced the said profession by choice or on pure indolence. They are masters of deceit and have a shrewd acumen for sales. Which USP to be used on the chosen “whom” seems to be a genetically inherited art with these beggars. They know which person to target and how without having an inkling of Kotler wisdom!

But there are times when their actions turn ludicrous. The sight of urchins sprinting in abandon during a green traffic signal and clambering for the crutches on the same turning red, is not uncommon for us.

One day during morning rush hour I had the privilege of witnessing an amusing row. At a major traffic crossing, a young boy was doing the rounds-  a la Sanjeev Kumar “Sholay” style, a kurta, hanging loose on the left sleeve. The chap was begging frantically with his right arm oscillating from motorist to pedestrian, bowl in hand. Full emotional branding, lost limb excess pity, good money et al. 

Suddenly, he had an unbearable itch on his left side. All efforts to retain composure went in vain & the itch grew uncontrollable. When the lad could hold no longer, in no time, his non-existent left hand popped out from below the garment. The phantom limb proceeded to scratch the left side vigorously.
Apparently the sight was beheld by a local auto rickshaw driver who was a regular on the route. He barged out of his auto and engaged in hot pursuit of the impostor. What followed was a punching fest and amid the royal thrashing the yell of the inflictor could crisply be heard “…#$*&%, yesterday you did not have your right arm and today the left has vanished..”

Meanwhile the signal changed and it was time to move on with the business of life.

PS: Nowadays Delhi can be re-christened - the beggar capital of India as we have them in large numbers in and outside parliament !

Written by Samrat Sinha.

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