Beggars in Mumbai streets

People with disabilities and an urge to survive flood the traffic signals as soon as they turn red

August 14, 2022 01:32 am | Updated 01:32 am IST

The mean streets of Mumbai.

The mean streets of Mumbai. | Photo Credit: PTI

They live under the busy bridge, where no sane person dares to walk to. There are a thousand vehicles passing by the road where they sleep, but no one notices them. Many are disabled by accidents, while others are disabled by society. 

If you ever happened to stop at the traffic signal in Mumbai, you would have noticed a large number of beggars on the streets.  People with disabilities and an urge to survive flood the traffic signals as soon as they turn red.

Some beggars extend their hands in front of potential donors, hoping that the sorrow on their faces will cause hearts to melt. Others showcase their talent — sing, play an old hand-made instrument, balance on a rope, or even whip oneself. 

They wear unwashed clothes. They are mainly sick, ageing people with dust, sweat and grease from the place they previously slept covering their clothes. 

There are families living on the streets for generations in the most desperate conditions. Though they work in other people’s houses to make a living, they don’t own a house to live in. Cardboard boxes become their floors and flyovers become their roofs. Having walls is a privilege.

Food is cooked in the most desolate conditions, with a tin can that acts as a stove and wooden logs for fuel. Most of them depend on charity or trash cans. But all is uncertain. 

Food is expensive in the city, but there are cheaper alternatives available in abundance. You guessed it, drugs. 

There are many young beggars, in the five-to-10 age group, generally clutching to their mothers' arms as they move from car to car, learning the skill of begging. 

Many of those children understand the limitations of begging and go on in search of more lucrative opportunities and end up in shabby businesses or dangerous groups, which can easily lead to working with mafias.

No one knows exactly “how” or “where” they come from, but one thing is for certain: they are all humans like you and me, a part of this society, but the only difference is that there is no one to listen to them.

The life of a beggar is hard; it’s much more difficult than we could ever imagine. They don’t have any place to live or any clothing to wear. Many of them wear ragged clothing that appears to be barely holding together while walking around barefoot. Some of them hardly know about the comfort of a bed. 

Many of them come to the city in search of a better life, but in reality, the city offers them nothing but the option of begging or a lingering death.

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