What Did You Sponsor Today?

A few days ago, an 11 year old boy Sanjay came to Street Smart for the first time. He was a nice boy with a perpetual grin on his face and an natural talent in acting. Sanjay was very happy to be at the program and when he said that he would return the next day, we did quite believe him. However he did not turn up on the next day, nor on the day after that. His friends from Parade Ground (where Sanjay sleeps at night) said that he had to go beg for money to other parts of the city and we left it at that, knowing he would return in a few days.

Yesterday, while setting up for Street Smart at the usual spot in the park, we glanced at a person sleeping under the trees a little way from where we were. Since people sleep under trees everywhere in Gandhi Park, we did not give it second thought. Then the sleeping figure began to stir in jerks and we recognized Sanjay, drunk to the hilt (if that is an expression). He was brought over and placed on one of our mats, was given water to drink and later to wash himself with. He then slept for a while, as the rest of us went about our routine and eventually sat with the others to eat lunch, albeit in a almost-but-not-quite sober state.

So it turns out he had earned a little bit too much money and not knowing what to do with it, spent it on some desi, locally-produced cheap alcohol.

This is what is happening at the end result of the feeling of दान (daan) that inspires everybody to dole out the spare change to these kids. Unwittingly, in their bid to do good, people end up doing more harm than if the kids were left without money.

So the next time you see somebody giving a rupee or more to a child, ask the generous donor what s/he is sponsoring on that day for the child: a packet or two of गुटखा (gutkha), a bottle of correction fluid or what is popularly called solution or maybe a quarter of cheap alcohol.

4 Responses

  1. To give or not to give… that is a very difficult question. A teacher once told me that once you give something to someone (beggar), you can't dictate what they do with it. can we ever really have that kind of control over people? At the same time, can we have a clear conscience without giving? The best I have figured out so far is to have some kind of a balance between giving and education. Thats why the work you are doing is so great. It's shocking to think that Sanjay had so much money at that point that he didn't know what to do with it. It's so sad to think of how good things could have been if he did know what to do with it. education is the key.

  2. That is a dilemma all of us face. However, on the matter of giving, the one thing that I strongly believe in, is that it has to be with a purpose. Giving anything- time, money, food grains etc- has to be with a purpose and with the understanding of how it is helping the receiver in the long run. I do not intend to sound like a preacher but what I am simply saying is that giving a rupee or two to a beggar on the street will not help make one's conscience clear simply because it is not helping the receiver. So is it possible to give the benefit of doubt to a person and maybe select the family of a beggar child one sees at the traffic lights, talk to them (therefore give time), offer a job to the parents (therefore give money) and put a condition that the children must study (therefore give opportunity and hope and a safer living environment)? This would, according to me, be "giving" in the true sense. But I am open to reactions and debate on this because there really are no clear answers.

  3. Anonymous says:

    very well put…This perspective everyone secretly know but for want of knowing any better …quite like Sanjay… feel ..and hope that the one rupee or the five rupees will end up sponsoring some food and not anything else…so education is the key not only for Sanjay but also all 'do-gooders'!Can't street smart diaries be a part of daily?…and reach out to many more…Mamta

  4. Hi Mamta, thank you for the input. What you say is correct. While there is a critical need to educate the Sanjay's (who has, unfortunately disappeared now since many days), there is also a very dire need to reform our education system to make the 'rest of us' folks more sensitive towards others. We had mulled over including this as part of a daily but at times we are critical of the system and not "politically correct" so we have to refrain. I am currently writing an article for Garhwal Post on the matter. Feel free to write your own thoughts on anything we talk about, here and send it to any of the dailies. A discussion about street children and begging will help the project immensely.

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