Are We The Offenders?

by Geetashree Chatterjee
(New Delhi)

Just outside our block of flats a cemented strip of path connects to a temple – the Jagadish Mandir. Over a period of time, the temple has found many ardent devotees who not only offer regular prayers but also contribute generously to the ever-growing temple coffer. The once-upon-a-time unassuming façade has thus developed into sprawling structure with sanctums for all the deities whom the locals have unshakable faith in. The growth of the temple is also evident from the widening girths of the priests belonging to a certain community.




Generally speaking, beggars are permanent fixtures of any place of worship in India. Temples are no exception. However, Jagadish Mandir, being a part of a residential complex, is well guarded except on Tuesday which is supposed to be the day of Hanumanji. On this day, the North Indians make it a point to get Hanumanji’s darshan and offer prasad which they usually distribute amongst the needy and the poor instead of taking back home. Therefore, on every Tuesday a horde of unruly mob can be seen flocking around the temple premises not only because every one of them invariably houses the mighty Lord Hanuman but also because this day many families bring bucket full of special home-made khana as offering and then for mass distribution. It’s a two-pronged programme – while on one hand the hungry stomachs get filled on the other the devout earn a few mileage (read religious) points through charity. The prasad may consist of either puri-chhole or daal- roti or bread & sweets or kheer.


However, being a regular visitor to the temple myself, I find that the community of beggars nowadays do not necessarily consist of the strata falling below poverty line. Neither are they the workless, the hapless and the homeless. I see house maids, sweepers and other menial workers, having a definite source of work/income, squatting on the temple courtyard along with their families, in the hope of a ready meal.



In no way are these squatters the underdogs in the strict sense of the term. They earn well as labour is expensive in the capital. The breed of working women depends heavily on them. As a result, they are never short of job. They have their own jhuggi settlements, authorized or unauthorized, equipped with all the latest electronic gadgets, like TV, fridge, radio etc. These slums are also the most crime infested, flourishing unhindered on power and many other kinds of thefts. Constituting the vote bank of the nation, in some ways, the slum dwellers are today’s the most privileged class.



In ancient times, it was the bhikshu or the monks who used to take daily rounds of the village to beg for alms. A very pious act it was to feed the Brahmins and sadhus, who renounced worldly pleasures, in pursuit of higher knowledge and enlightenment. The heartfelt blessing of a happily burping Brahmin, after a satisfactory, sumptuous meal, was the ultimate pilgrimage for the grihasth or the householder. Those times were different when society was strictly divided into varnas or guilds with stringent lakshmanrekhas. Members of a particular guild/varna dared not transcend their respective boundaries. Likewise, the knowledge seekers or the wise men spent their lives in learning, teaching and higher contemplations. Dabbling in mercenary activities was unthinkable and below their dignity. Whatever they would earn by performing pujas and other religious rituals, were minimal and in kind, unless they enjoyed royal patronage, which mostly they didn’t.



However, in today’s pluralist society, having blurred guild demarcations, the onus of economic development lies as much on the integrity, sincerity and diligence of the workforce as on the Government mandated to provide the infrastructural pre-conditions to a promising work culture. This all the more holds good for a labour intensive country like India. Given the same, it is really worrisome to detect this cancerous apathy, this lack of self-esteem and respect and regressive tendency to beg, which if allowed to go unchecked, may eat away the zeal, zest and industriousness of the working masses.


Above all, the nagging doubt and guilt which this culture of begging rouses in us – the thinking rung of the social ladder. Are we in any way contributing to this mal practice? Are we encouraging them or making it easy for them, in our religious fervour, to earn a quick something without sweating it out? Are we the actual offenders?





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Aug 06, 2012
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Indeed very thoughtfully written!
by: Sneha

Your spiritually inclined articles embody the same concerns that I often ponder, Geetashree. I have witnessed several such incidents in the past and they seem to only increase at a drastic pace. I sometimes feel whether we educated people are really at an advantage... Sometimes, like they say, ignorance is bliss...is it really true? Given the fact that we have to struggle with so many things in our lives. For instance, the world stricter immigration patterns and the low salaries; especially for teachers. I don't know what amounts to 'cheating' in this case. But yes, such are the ways of the world. Totally believe in the concept of kalayuga - We are living in this hell.

Aug 06, 2012
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Thanks Sneha for empathising
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

I understand and appreciate your concerns too. My sister who is also a teacher (Public School) has similar contentions. Teaching was never a very profitable proposition. However, it had loads of nobler emotions and intentions attached to it. The teachers were equated with nation builders and were highly respected. However, now as my sister laments, the profession draws neither respect nor a satisfactory income scale.

I was in two minds whether to post this article under Spiritual or As You Say. In fact I had given both options to iww. I think in today's context, a spiritually inclined person should also be deeply concerned with socio-economic issues and development. Being saintly in thought is not enough. It should get reflected in action too.

Once upon a time, begging was part and parcel of a monk's lifestyle. Today begging has become malignant - from politicians begging for votes to the survivors at the grass-roots who have taken to begging in the absence of a respectable avenue of gainful employment. And in the middle of these two extremes, we, the thinking animal, caught in a vicious circle.

Thanks for sharing my concerns.

Regards

Aug 06, 2012
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Sailing in the same boat of helpless thinkers
by: Jitendra Mathur

Geeta Ji,

Namaskar and Suprabhaat (it's 3.45 a.m.).

I feel, I am also sailing with you in the same boat of helpless thinkers. We feel a lot that makes us concerned about the society, the nation, the culture and finally ourselves as to what we are doing and what we should instead. But ! We are helpless about it. We can express our views (if we are having a platform or means for that) but putting it straight, can do little additional about the reality that bothers us.

This article of yours deserves to be put under spiritual category only because being spiritual by nature only, you have written it and this undesirable phenomena strikes because it is against the spirit of begging itself. In ancient times, being a YAACHAK was not something derogatory and the householder (the Grihastha) was delighted to find a YAACHAK at his / her door who provided him / her the opportunity to follow the Grihastha Dharma. Now due to such type of phenomena that you have (and I also have) seen, we feel the presence of beggars as repulsive. Such kind of parasites do a lot of harm to the genuine needies also because as a habit we tend to blanket them in the same category. This phenomena has generated such a situation for several benevolent people that they give charity out of compulsion (to get rid of sticky beggars) and not by their heart.

Very thoughtful. Very true. But then ? Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai ? Kyonki Woh Moujuuda Haalaat Ki Baabat Kuchh Kar Nahin Sakta. We are unhappy with the reality prevailing and more so with ourselves because we cannot do anything about it.

Regards.

Jitendra

Aug 08, 2012
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kudos
by: padmaja

wel written

Aug 09, 2012
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Padmajaji
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Thank you very much for your appreciation.

Aug 09, 2012
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Namaskar Mathur Sahab!
by: Geetashree Chatterjee

Thank you very much for taking out time so early in the morning to read my post and give an elaborate comment in connection with the same.

Its a pleasure to read your thoughtful views. However, I would like to contradict you on the issue of being helpless. I don't think you are helpless or I am helpless. We are disgruntled, worried and perhaps disheartened but not helpless.

Helpless are those who cannot speak out. We can. I had read somewhere that every human being has an area of influence. By our thoughts and deeds we are constantly influencing the minds and actions of others, especially, those who are close to us and also those who are not so close. As our conviction gains strength so does our area of influence.

Likewise by vocalizing your feelings in the form of a blog or an article or a comment you are building and influencing public opinion for or against an issue. And as Rhonda Byrnes says in her revolutionary book "The Secret" this entire Universe, nay, cosmos is the outcome of a single thought. A thought always precedes action. It is an ideology, a philosophy, an idea that ignite a revolution or social change.

Talking of platform do you really lack one? The on-line fora are today's most powerful podium of voicing dissension or agreement.

And one day who knows these thought vapours may accumulate into a huge rain filled cloud and burst down on our social fabric and flood away all ills making way for a new era. "Woh subhaa kabhie toh aayegi" ... remember that sad yet hope filled song!

Regards

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