Let me introduce you to some guys I met recently.. I have a question further down for you to give an opinion on which is regarding a situation they told me about
Sumit, tiki tiki, Ganesh and Sumit at their friends small convenience shop in Mumbai!
Now let me tell you how I came across them!
Part of my travels include creating a fund which allows me to discretely administer small scale aid, looking out for projects or individuals who need some of life’s basic needs such as healthcare and food etc
The idea is to try and directly improve lives, cutting out the middle man but also fully aware that in developing countries a lot of money intended for aid or other beneficial purposes normally thin down due to corruption or just various administrative costs. Administrative costs are part and parcel of getting things done, corruption much less so but sadly ever-present.
Anyway, walking through The area of Mumbai near my hostel the other day I noticed (as often catches the eye) a little girl who was lying down on the side of the pavement, something which is quite common (especially in tourist areas) but with her was a baby, probably about two or three years old. Seeing them asleep made me think, but also seeing as they were asleep I moved on.
I have seen this scenario a lot in other developing countries that I’ve been to so was slightly cynical about the situation.
Later on that night though whilst walking back after walking around and having dinner I came across the girl again and felt compelled to, this time, help. Why not?
I told the girl to follow me and mimed eating, the intention was to get her some hot food and make sure the night didn’t go by with an empty stomach. A child is a child no matter how you paint it, right? A baby even more so.
As we were walking this girl – cant have been more than 8 years old – started the charm offensive, “thank you” she would say time and time again, baby just about small enough to be carried, head resting on shoulder, the works. She also went on the further we walked to start saying ‘rice, milk’, over and again, pointing to the baby – fair point?
We ended up with the girl leading me to a local small shop owned by a guy (not in the picture) who seemed to know the girl. I found this a bit suspicious, but, when you’re in the moment and faced with something which you assume will only directly and you think positively influence the girl and baby somehow, sometimes, it’s just best to go with the flow. Not question it. It’s too easy to be sinnacle.
Having bought her a bag of rice, some oil (to cook it in) and some milk for the baby she scurried off excitedly, thanking me before she abruptly left.
That, as far as I was concerned was that.
Lying in bed though that night I started thinking about what had gone on earlier. Was it the right idea, was I wanting to help too naively.
This is where you need to let me know your thoughts.
I went back the next day to the store to ask the guys who run the shop what happens to the food and the girl after, it had been on my mind and she had been sleeping rough. After initial frustrations and defensive attitudes had subsided and a bit of persistent honesty about the situation I asked the guys who said the following…
It happens every so often, various types of food are bought by tourist for the girls, normally lead by the girls ( as I was ) to a store where they get bought something. After that though the plot evidently thickens… What apparently happens is the food gets downgraded or sold to other vendors nearby so that the children get some food but also some money as well… I suppose that is just intelligent thinking and if the local store holders think its better for the child’s well being then I suppose at least they get the most out of it.
The only thing that does happen though apparently is every now and then some of the money scrounged or made by these kids is given to their dad, quite often an alcoholic who spends it on booze. It bugged me if I’m being honest, but then the shopkeeper and the guys above, without being prompted suggested that if food hasn’t been bought in a while the father becomes abusive towards the girl.
So the question I want to know the answer to, if you’re reading this is, was it a good idea or not?
Does stopping abuse happening justify it even when fuelling alcoholism.. I’d say that’d go down as a yes, but when does it stop if its fuelled? How does it stop? How the cycle of poverty stop? How do mentalities develop and grow if something just carries on in its vicious cycle? When the girls can’t save up because their father is getting drunk on their money?
People, especially children should at least have a chance to have a go at life but I can’t help thinking this isn’t the case here. Do you just resort to giving them money hoping that they’re trying to get out of the cycle? Do you just buy them hot food to eat which could lead to a beating and be of potentially little need?