When rags help them make enviable fortunes

Is begging a money minting profession? While many of us might vehemently deny, interesting facts that are put forth on a leading website prove us wrong. After having read about the richness that begging can help amass, I cannot help but mock at some of the new age parents out there, who are obstinate on imposing a set of career choices on their children, while depriving them of their dreams and ambitions. Had these parents been given a chance to have a close look at the wealth that some of the richest beggars in our country have amassed, I am sure they would have re-erected their mind-set on the viable jobs that their children must pursue, and look beyond medical and engineering fields. This unconventional path has helped some of the pioneer beggars out there amass enviable amount of cash, thus giving our elite IITians and IIM grads a run for their money.

One among the forty plus entrepreneurial ‘mendicant’ has begged his way to owning two luxury apartments in a leading metro, each worth about 70 to 80 lakhs, apart from earning about 75 to 80 thousand rupees from open-minded alms givers, which means he effortlessly earns much more than the average salary of the highest government official in his state. Shocking me further, the article about him also read that he owns several other businesses that are successfully run by his family members. While a major part of the nation showers pity and offerings on the supposedly small-time beggars who skilfully narrate their woes, the actuality is far from what’s being projected. While the fruits of labour of many such beggars help them earn humongous money from some of the busy traffic intersections that we pass by, most of us knowingly and unknowingly contribute intensely to promoting this deceitful occupation, making it the most profitable way of earning a living in our country. Many of us are in fact guilty of giving away a whooping amount of money as alms to the undeserved and unworthy, only to boast about our willingness to help the poor and needy. This makes me want to share a personal experience which almost took away my kindness and compassion for mendicants. After giving alms generously to a physically disabled old man whom I used to find in our bus stand, I was shocked one fine day, upon realizing that he was in fact blowing the entire money on booze each day. As he came to me the next day with his usual antics, I shouted and shooed him away in anger.

Irrespective of a stream of advancements and developments that we are living amongst, begging has sky-rocketed to becoming a thriving business in our country because we are emotionally too vulnerable to believing the phony stories of woes and predicaments that are brilliantly crafted by devious beggars who are well aware of making wise use of our sympathy and love for the deprived. While giving away substantial amount of money with the hope of bringing in a change in the life of an underprivileged person, many of us deliberately forget the fact that begging is in fact a 200 crore industry in our country. While adult mendicants flock in abundance to earn a living by begging on busy streets and railway stations, what makes me feel sick to the stomach is the cruellest exploitation that child beggars face. Rag clad and sometimes unclothed children who keep pounding on the windows of cars and other vehicles, or sifting through garbage in the hope of finding a few morsels of food are common sights in our country. But what often goes unnoticed is the terror in the glares of these helpless children. While most of us continue to believe that these little ones slog away each day holding the burden of their family on their frail shoulders, the reality is far horrific from what we get to get to see, as most of them are often horrifically exploited by adult beggars who are well aware of the fact that children can mint more money than adults. While the major share of the money earned goes to the adult gang leaders, children are given mere pennies that are hardly sufficient for their daily meals. Beggar syndicates often abduct, and disfigure children and deliberately leave them starved for days together, before making them beg on the streets, often accompanied by women who pose as their mothers.

As the rich affluent in our country continue to make their way towards greater magnitudes of richness, innumerable breeds of ‘professional’ beggars are toiling hard to give their elite counterparts the toughest competition in terms of monthly earnings. While the sight of these deprived looking mendicants sitting down on dirt filled pavements and roads might falsely echo countless stories of poverty and distress, behind the misguiding pretexts, begging is actually ‘passionate and dedicated’ ‘profession’ for each one of them, With several years of panhandling on various streets of our cities, many of them secretly accumulate enviable fortunes and become millionaires, and yet continue to dupe us with torn clothes and poverty-stricken looks that are often achieved with skilful makeups that can easily con the philanthropists amongst us.

While getting tricked into believing that all the shabbily dressed mendicants belong to the underprivileged and unfortunate class of our society, we are unknowingly depriving the dark underbelly of the society by giving away their share of benefits to the tricksters who appear in the guise of ill-fated panhandlers. A ban on begging is hardly an apt solution to deal with conning of begging mafia. Instead, we need more emphatic and rigid rules, apart from vigilant authorities that keep a check on the increasingly sprouting begging mafia in our country. But sadly we are neither watchful about this snowballing disgrace, nor keen on curbing rogues from duping us in the disguise of poverty.

The next time when you generously help an adult beggar, remember that he might be wealthier than you!

My way of dealing with leering

After having worked amidst more number of men than women, I can undoubtedly say that I am more thick-skinned now than I have ever been. Gone are the days when I used to get offended and hurt at the drop of a hat, and hated men around for their impertinence and inherent trait of leaving no stones to degrade women whenever possible. Backed by years of good and bad experiences, my mind has been fine-tuned to be at both giving and receiving end, and accept and return scorns and scoffs with equal velocity and magnitude. I have finally learned the artless art of standing apart in the midst of men folk around me who keep boasting on their make-believe brain power and sensibility, while ridiculing women as senseless and brainless minorities. While I am used to bearing these trivial and imprudent arguments and attitudes, there’s one trait of men that continues to surprise me, as I am yet to decipher the reason why they remain addicted to that strange habit, irrespective of age. The strangest part of the story lies in the fact that this odd trait is commonly found amongst men in our country. Is there a hidden virus that we are yet to discover, or is there a genetic combination that our scientists haven’t noticed at, if not, what is that single reason that makes our men stare so shamelessly at women around them, no matter whether they are as young as five, or as old as fifty five? Being on the receiving end of someone’s ogle is not as peachy as how it is portrayed in some of the commercials that we get to see. The last among the ogling sessions that I have had was on Saturday, at the bus stop close by our hostel. In spite of draping me in a loose salwar which is far from sex, revealing or provocative, I couldn’t escape the stares of men who either walked beside me, or drove their way towards the bus stand. Shocking me further, a man almost forgot to blink his eyes while lecherously staring at me from a nearby building! While the stare-to-strip race went on with baton being exchanged from one to another, my bus arrived and I quickly boarded in, leaving behind the long line of ‘admirers’ around.

While it can be a fun hobby for some, lascivious staring can also result from hideous motives. Every time a woman walks past, the devil soon awakes to lure men to stare at her in the most discreet and pervert manner, while some extent further to the strip-mode. Despite the fact that I have never witnessed a ‘scary stare’ as of now, I can undoubtedly say that staring of all kind is annoying, no matter what the hidden intention is. If men believe in ‘complementing’ women through their incessant stares, they are yet to realize that no woman can accept that salacious praise open-heartedly. With that said I must also say that when women get offended, they often end up being victims of more intense, creepy and annoying gazes. Does that mean men use staring as a tactful way to attract a woman’s attention? Are women vulnerable to yelling at every man who desperately wants some attention back? I am not-sure, as it can never be answered without a whole lot of hard-core psychological reasons that I can hardly write about.

However, here is my thought on how to avoid getting distraught about annoying leers. Rather than displaying a distressing body language followed by a perturbed yell, if we shrug off the less offensive ogles, and tactfully save ourselves from the creepy and annoying ones, I believe that staring might never rise to become as bothersome as it is believed to be. While some of you might call this to be an act of cowardice, here is the reason that backs this thought of mine – when you can’t change something, it’s better to change your tactic and outlook towards the unchangeable. Doesn’t that sound sensible now? While some men intend to piss off women and some others carry streams of hideous thoughts behind those vicious stares, in both the cases, most of these wayward men are hell-bent on remaining the way they are. Hence, giving a piece of your mind would only make matters worse and never change them, especially in a country where raping or sodomizing to death continue to make headlines each day.

Whenever I come across men who instinctively turn their ‘lenses’ on lewdly, I also wonder whether such men really ‘inspect’, leer, and drool over every woman they clap their eyes on. I do feel they stare at most of them and not just the beautiful, petite or voluptuous alone, desperately hoping to get stared back. Much to their happiness and gratification, most women exchange glances, either out of curiosity or as a way of expressing their displeasure. Either ways, they make men happy in their triumphant effort to attract the attention of the women they choose to target for god-knows-what reasons. The reciprocations take men close to their second phase of staring, which is often ‘spiced’ up with lustful looks and lewd comments, making woman feel that intense puking sensation which erupts straight from the gut. This brings in my way of dealing with stares, good bad and ugly – thicken your mind and skin, ignore the glances and just move away. Because, most men are so intensely programmed to shamelessly stare at women of all ages. Though it’s ridiculous and annoying, they will continue to stare at women for many more ages to come. So why bother to irk your tiresome mind or rack your already worn-out brain, instead, why not shift to the impassive ignore-mode and save yourself?

Anecdote – Here is an interesting statistical data that I found on a leading newspaper:

An average man will spend almost 43 minutes a day staring at 10 different women.
That adds up to 259 hours – almost 11 days – each year, making a total 11 months and 11 days between the ages of 18 and 50.

Need I say more?

An ordinary woman with an unusual job

No matter whether it’s a job or a lifestyle, when it comes to defying conventional yardsticks and societal norms, we do hesitate a bit, and remain obstinate about walking through the pre-set pathways, thus saving ourselves from becoming victims of scorns and scoffs from people around. While I believe that everyone is entitled to make their own choices, the world around is often unreasonably prejudiced when it comes to categorizing certain people based on their jobs and lifestyle. Rather than delving deeper into knowing them and situations that forced them into adopting what we categorize as odd jobs and bizarre lifestyles, we are often vulnerable to believing the hearsays that swirl around the professional and personal choices they make, to make both ends meet. I am not intending to glorify them or sympathise for the decisions they have made in life, but, I also don’t intend to be judgemental about every choice that the world disapproves with raised eyebrows. Rather than letting my mind wander and make presumptions about a supposedly odd sounding job or way of life, I believe in looking out for the reasons that resulted in the apparently unusual choices. This is where I have a story to share, about a middle aged woman who works as a muse for several art students. Posing as a muse or a life model is far from the glitzy and glamourous catwalks that we watch every day. Unclothed and unmoving, she has to tirelessly and pose for painters, sketchers and sculptors, practically every day. But unlike the popular perception, life modelling is not prostitution.

Being a professional life model demands an incomparable mental strength and focus, apart from the incredible capability to look past some of the occasional creepy and lecherous stares. Surprisingly, irrespective of being less than averagely educated, she does it all with impressive zeal and vigour, while keeping her embarrassments at bay. She is courageous enough to look beyond the contours of conventionality, thus making the world believe and accept the fact that taking one’s clothes off for money needn’t be always exploitative. While I can guess the amount of splutter, disbelief and ridicule that she might have stumbled upon, I appreciate her for paying no heeds to those who are drone focussed on finding out the wrong end of the stick. While it might sound sordid to many, we intentionally forget the fact that she has a family to take care of, the reason why is forced to take her clothes off for money.

Though many women have been posing nude for art since ages, we’re still prudish and prejudiced about them, as they willingly stand butt naked for the sake of monetary benefits. Life modelling is both physically exhausting and mentally tiring. Moreover, its takes a commendably extraordinary mind-set to choose a job that involves sitting naked and still for several hours, in front of numerous strangers, gracefully and elegantly. However, she does it absolute pride, akin to the gratification that most of us gain from our day-to-day works. With no enviable looks and desirable figure to boast of, she is an ordinary woman who made herself available to an unusual job. Surprisingly, she is gifted with an amazing confidence and desirably positive attitude that makes her do a job that normal people might be too curious to know and discuss about, but hardly dare to attempt doing it even once. Her astonishing courage made me ponder over a poignant thread of thoughts on her struggle to earn a dignified space in our conservative society which is yet to grow up to accept her profession and change its age-old perceptions about women. The moral brigades around would find it hard to forgive her for challenging their rigid norms. Irrespective of the fact that none of the closed-minded saviours out there would lend her and many such women a helping hand, they would leave no stones unturned to fiercely set-up a cavalry of like-minded culture protectors who might rob her of her only source of revenue and force to embrace death as an escape from sheer poverty.

The awkwardness related to life modelling often comes the misguided idea that nude or semi-nude modelling is the same as that of making oneself vulnerable to be exploited. Misconceptions related to nude modelling are often related to the eroticism that most people look at, whereas, the actuality is way beyond this prejudiced notion. At the outset, no woman would willingly opt to take her clothes off, the reason why I could gauge the terrible familial circumstances that forced her shed her inhibitions and bear the uncomfortableness of being nude in front of a roomful of art students, so that she can feed herself and her children each day. However, in a desperately stereotypical society that’s keen on categorizing and judging people around, I wonder which group will such women would fall into, for being proud of their extraordinary profession. While narrow-mindedness that prevail in our society might mercilessly mock at them mindlessly, I really hope they can uphold their courage, self-respect and belief, thus retaining the happiness and dignity that they enjoy in their unusual profession, while safeguarding themselves from being exploited.

Anecdote – If we can broad-mindedly accept porn stars, laud the gross amount of erotic content in our main stream movies, and applaud the actors without inhibitions, it would be disingenuous to poke fun at a life model who makes a living by working as a nude model, just because it’s a profession that’s way beyond our sphere of understanding.

Scriped ‘dramalities’ and unscripted hullabaloos

While they are hailed as the most attention-grabbing alternatives that give the daily soap operas a run for their money, today’s reality shows are far from the much-spoken-about reality that they promise to serve. Despite the fact that myriads of these most-watched reality fiascos continue to display everything from happiness to anger and hatred to apparently intense love, I have often felt that each bit of the on screen persona of most of the self-professed reality stars are carefully scripted with the aim of spicing and dramatizing the shows to the verge of sickening displaying of larger-than-life emotions that are far from grounded realities.

From loud abuses and slaps to picking up nasty fights, indulging in naughty and bitchy conversations and enjoying ‘washroom’ romances, the contestants can even pitifully shamelessly smooch or make out as per pre-written scripts, in order to quench their thirst for fame and money. While some portray themselves to be delicate darlings by crying their hearts out at the drop of a hat, some others are inexplicably thick-skinned to make controversy out of every single incident.

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Irrespective of watching a few episodes of these widely talked about shows, I haven’t yet found out the reason that makes them the true-blue crowd-pullers that allure both young and old alike. From petty cat-fights to shameless PDAs, each moment of such shows cater oodles of trashy content that has zero value for the viewers who are subtly tricked into believing that whatever they get to watch on the screen are happening for real. However, when you look at them carefully, each word and deed of the participants continue to shout out the message that all that said and done things are well-scripted and brilliantly practiced to perfection.

But sadly, most of the viewers are addictively engrossed in the happenings, and takein them beyond significance, thus ending up draining their entire energy on the non-stop spree to defend/rebuke these stars with their verbal abilities, on any social media they have access to. While these loyal viewers are all in praise of their preferred reality celebs, they revengefully scoff, scorn, and abuse everyone who disagrees with the brazenness of their favourite reality stars. However, the unseen reality might shock these ardent fans who might never imagine even in their wildest dreams that the intenseness of love, wrath, and fury that’s being displayed onscreen often dies out as soon as the curtains fall. Or, when precisely put, JO DIKHTA HAI WO HOTA NAHI HAI AUR JO HOTA HAI WHO DIKTA NAHI HAI.

As I continue to wonder how these men and women on reality shows gather the courage to speak foul, smooch publically, manhandle fellow contestants, and backbite shamelessly in front of numerous cameras, all for the sake of adding loads of ‘reality’ to their shows, I am equally amazed to see how such faked incidents trigger endless unnecessary debates on social media. What surprises me more is the loyalty and intermittent ferocity of many self-confessed fans who never leave any stones unturned to cry foul and make long furore and hullaballoo with utmost derogatory and crass language.

Even if I am told to believe that these uproars to be the smart antics of the PR machineries that work for these stars, I am sure that such crowds would defenitely have a notable number of ‘genuine’ fans as well, who get too itchy watching their favourite star getting ‘dissed’ on the show, the reason why they soon jump on to social media platforms to give vent to their anger and resentment. Each day on shows end with endless verbal battles on petty ‘reality’ issues that hardly matter to anyone of them or for the public. However, none of these self-proclaimed fans are keen on making use of their common sense to decipher that they are indulging in conversations that are hardly of any importance to them, instead helping a series of scripted incidents and talentless reality stars garner tons of free publicity. These unwanted outcries can only snip away the priceless hours that are to be used wisely in life, to do something beneficial. Yet, many viewers are swayed by the impulsiveness that these shows create, leading them to unceasingly voicing their opinions and comments, thus inviting many more people to join such numerous meaningless conversations.

I am not against putting forth one’s genuine opinion on TV shows or movies. But I do believe in a borderline and timeframe that has to be maintained, while articulating opinions in public. Stretching useless conversations, spiking them with ‘choicest’ cuss word and insult, and spending days to extend it to gross and nauseating war of words would never do anything good to any of these supposedly devoted viewers or fans. Instead, it would only rob them off the precious and incalculable hours that make use of to do several things that are useful and beneficial to them, as well as many other people around.

Among many examples of such senseless conversations that I have read during these years, here is one that I felt is the height of stupidity. Assuming that a celebrity had fallen in love with a co-contestant in a reality show that was aired last year, endless conversations on their ‘budding’ romance surfaced on various social media platforms. While some of the fans showered their unconditional love, blessings, and support on the pair and painstakingly coined a linguistic blend with the name of both the stars , some others rained inexcusable abuses on them for their endless PDAs that ‘un-Indian’ behaviour on national television. Much to the shock of the devoted fans and their bitchy counterparts, the couple came out in public after the show and stated that there was no love in the air. While their fans went ahead and continued their rants on the reasons behind the spit, their foes kept sniffing for possibilities of the impending hook-ups of both the stars. As the lovers and haters continued sharing their tirades and judgements, the reality stars kept riding high on their new-found fame, minting more and more money each day, while their fans and foes continued wasting days and weeks together to keep up with their conversations to support/dis the stars, gaining nothing.

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Anecdote – In the effort to tweet endlessly and verbally demolish a reality star on Twitter, won’t it be wise to make use of that time to read a blog on health or post some messages on a more important and genuine topic? Don’t get me wrong. I am not a hypocrite, and admit having watched a handful of episodes of reality shows. However, what I really disagree with is spending our priceless days on futile discussions about those shit loads of scripted drama. Shouldn’t we doing something better?

Put yourself in their shoes

I was reading an online newspaper the other day, and came upon the tear-jerking news story about the suicide of a teen transgender. The news report had the heart-wrenching suicide note that ‘she’ had left on ‘her’ social media page. The 1000+ words post gave a vivid account of ‘her’ prolonged battle with all those who relentlessly kept denying ‘her’ gender identity, due to fear of societal backlash. ‘Her’ suicide note ends with the hope that her story would help ‘fix society’ someday.

Our bigoted world thus lost yet another talented teenager who desperately wanted to live a dignified life like any other normal human being. But the world around has robbed her off the happiness and peace ‘she’ wished for, thus making ‘her’ take a sudden and drastic step in the hope to find peace in heaven, far away from the prejudiced world that kept mocking at ‘her’ gender transition each day. Although I couldn’t fathom ‘her’ pain and anguish, ‘her’ story was thought-provoking, as it unveiled the intense pain of being trapped to live with a wrong identity and persona. It also made me think about the sadness, hopelessness, and desperation of many others transgenders who continue to hope for a day when their community gets the deserved freedom, respect and equality. The more I tried to shake away my thoughts about their plight, the more they kept bumping on to me, and I was soon engrossed in an stream of thoughts about the predicaments of transgenders who struggle to live a normal life each day, in our supposedly progressive world.

While there are no statistical backing to support this statement, I can undoubtedly say that the increasing number of suicides of transgender people indicate the horrifying narrow-mindedness of our society. Every time I happen to read about the distressing stories of transgenders who continually face rejection discrimination, victimization, violence, and mockery from family, friends, and society, I cannot help but wonder why the world is so hell-bent on making the life of transgenders miserable and hellish. A society that cannot extent a hand of acceptance shouldn’t be keen on finding ways to marginalize transgenders, as they too deserve the same rights that we enjoy each day. Sadly, due to constant marginalization and vilification, most of them embrace death, in the hope to break free from the torments that they undergo each day.

Throughout my life, I’ve always treated transgenders with equal respect. No matter wherever I meet them, unlike those who leave no stones unturned to intimidate them with blatant stares and lewd comments, I have keenly maintained the warmth and normalcy that makes them feel at ease. This is because, I strongly believe that if knowing another person’s life or perspective is beyond our limits, accepting them in the way they are is the best way to let them live their lives peacefully and dignifiedly. However, most of the times, the world around me hardly show the time and patience to respect the persona and feelings of transgenders.

When did we realize our gender? Can anyone of us recall whether it was a choice that we made, or it happened subconsciously? The process of gender recognition remains the same for all, but unlike us who can easily categorize ourselves, transgenders are unable to fully express themselves, or, find it hard to defy the societal norms for righting what has been described as wrong and sinful for ages. So, if we lack the ability to decipher the worry that they are into, let’s not freak out or make a big deal of it. Looking beyond the age-old man woman classification is a matter of shame to several people, but, I believe this is inevitable, as one can really understand a person only by climbing into his/her skin and walking around in it. Desolation and suicides of transgenders are real and serious subjects that require immediate action, but sadly they are often evaded as our dogmatic mind-sets fail to recognize the struggle of those who live the misery of getting entrapped in an identity that’s dynamically opposite to their entire self. As we continue our tightrope walk in the world of hatred, wars, communal riots, and deadly disease, we make living more difficult by failing to love and accept each other.

Trans, gay or straight, love and acceptance are what they yearn for, the reason why we have to look at the world around beyond the contours of traditional gender classifications.

Transgenders are not outcastes. They remain so for being trapped in bodies of the wrong gender. They are neither delusional nor psychotic. It’s just that their inside doesn’t match the outside. Transgender people should be bestowed the same respect that we deserve. Their bodies are their own so are their mind and freedom to live with dignity and equality.

Considering the fact that they keep facing a sea of struggles from both within themselves and outside world, why not lessen their challenges by accepting them for the way they are?

Anecdote – How does it feel like getting trapped in a strange place? Or how would you respond if you were forced to dress in opposite-gender clothing and follow a variant behaviour throughout a week? It’s not just suffocating and terrifying, but might also trigger immeasurable rage and anguish, driving you to the verge of madness. If that’s what you might experience for those momentary transformations, can you fathom the anger and sadness of a soul that gets trapped in a wrong body throughout the entire life?