Few things disrupt public life on roads and streets with more audacity than beggars chasing people for money. Their constant pleading seems to have become a part of our daily routine. Whether we stop at a red signal, spend time with our loved ones at a park, have a roll paratha in the car, or walk towards our vehicle from shops, they stare at us, bang our windows and doors, block our way and emotionally blackmail us. Only a minority of these actually sell a product like newspaper, driving gloves, toys etc but the irony is that even they are not selling their product but instead selling their hunger. If you hear them carefully, most of them are uttering the same words, “Roti khani hai, bhook lagi hai”. (I’m feeling hungry, I want food). Then they emotionally blackmail us like “Allah kay naam pe de dein, ap ko Allah bohat de ga” (give us in Allah’s name. He will give you more).
When I lived in London, I saw different types of beggars. Outside tube stations, a few homeless persons were seen in their blankets along with their dogs and a bowl in front of them. They didn’t speak at all, except a word of thanks if someone put anything in. These were exceptional cases which we hardly saw. Most poor people there were seen singing outside malls/pubs with a bowl near them where anyone could donate if they wanted to. Everyone else worked somewhere to get paid. Stepping into Marks & Spencers, many times we were asked if we would like to donate money to a pet rescue center. One could just enter the store with a smile at them, meaning we don’t want to give money right now. There were no pressures. Moreover the state provides a lot of benefits to their citizens like carers and disability, child, widowed, jobseekers, tax credits, maternity allowance etc. It is understandable that England is a developed country and Pakistan isn’t, so of course due to poverty, there is difference.
Recently, on my honeymoon to Sri Lanka, a developing country, I noticed a different trend. Like Pakistan, Sri Lanka is also quite a poor country. We travelled all across the country and noticed a huge trend of Entrepreneurs. I did not see a single beggar in that country. Yet, we saw hundreds of people marketing and selling their products/services. To be honest, some of them were quite irritating as well. We were lying down at Unawatuna beach on our loungers and a lady with her bag of clothes kept coming to me and showing me the clothes. She told me how pretty they are and that they would look great on me. It was clear from her appearance that she is quite desperate and has a tough life. Not once did she tell me how hungry she was or how badly she needs money.
At Hikkadowa beach the next day, an aged man with a bottle of oil in his hand came to us and asked “Foot massage?”. First I resisted. Then he stopped and asked if we were here on a holiday. He then continued that your feet must be tired from all the walking on the beach. He added “I can give you a very good massage. I’m sure you’ll like it.’ We were convinced. I was happy to pay him those 500 Rupees as it was really worth it.
I’m not saying that this beggar culture in Pakistan is wrong and should be eliminated completely. All I’m saying is that they need to stop telling us how hungry they are and improve their marketing skills. They need to think of what products or services they can sell, and start selling their benefits to us. I would love to pay someone who tells me that the gajras smell really nice, and that they will brighten up my home, instead of telling me they have small kids and they need to eat roti. In my opinion, that’s just not right. We should earn our food not beg for it.
Even Islam doesn’t want us to ask others for money. Hard work is the key. We need to become better employees, businessmen and entrepreneurs. Instead of begging people to give us money, we need to convince people that they can’t live without our products/services. That is the real challenge. All human beings have egos. We should be proud to sell, rather than receive favors from others.
Having said that, there are also a 10-20 % of people on our roads who are happy to sell their products and services. I have come across a few people to whom I gave money and they returned it saying they won’t accept the money unless I buy their product. This is what I love and want to see Pakistanis doing. I am so happy to see a disabled man in a wheelchair outside Total petrol pump in Askari 10, Rawalpindi with his cart of products which he sells. My father and my sister used to shop from him regularly as he never begged for money and was a proud businessman. Thus, even the disabled/elderly/women can start something of their own, start selling something and make sure they sell that, not their hunger.
Following are a few product ideas to sell (on the go):
· Cool water bottles/juices (Nestle etc) profit of 20 rupeea per bottle can be theirs.
· Fragrances (Car, home, body etc)
· Handy water bottles for the car.
· Handy wet wipes (for handbag & car)
· Mobile phone prepaid cards/ internet cards
· Souvenirs like fridge magnets/coasters
· Shades for car (windscreen shade, sunglasses)
· Hair clips, ponies, bobby pins, safety pins
· Sweets, chocolates, chewing gums
Following are a few service ideas to sell:
· Vacuum clean car from inside
· Foot massage
· Hand & arm massage
· Nail polish removal and reapplication
· Polish shoes
· Car hand wash
These were only a few business options which can be used by beggars. There are actually endless options which they can come up with. I remember a few months ago, we were celebrating my friend Emma’s birthday at Rawal lake. We just couldn’t enjoy as some begging women were stuck to us the whole time and were after us to give them money. They definitely ruined our evening and privacy. The agony is that they were perfectly healthy to work. It’s just become a habit for most of them. Unfortunately, many of these beggars have a leader whom they have to report to every night and pay him all the money they have gathered. These leaders at times abuse these workers in every way in an attempt to make them bring more money home. All this is extremely sad, cruel, against human rights and it must stop immediately.
Each one of us can become an entrepreneur only if we put our mind to it. Life is not easy for any of us. We all have a share of hard times in life. There have been times I wasn’t sure if I would have food on my table for the next meal. We have lost loved ones in our life. And when the ones we relied upon, left us abruptly, we realized one can never ever bank on anyone else for our survival. Only Allah is with us and our hard work that can take us out of even the most difficult situations. So to be honest, I want all Pakistani’s to start some work. I am completely against this begging culture and I feel this must stop.