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  • In Gujarat, on the streets of the old city in Ahmedabad, it is very difficult to differentiate between the middle class and the very low income families.

    You see, unlike what is publicized, one finds beggars only in the big metropolitan cities in India, these being people who have not yet figured a way of working, having come fresh into the city; or who are trained to earn by begging for more dominating figures who have made begging a system of income.

    If you go to the most visited and plundered touristic spots, the most widely publicized hot spots by your generic travel magazines, you will find such sprouted beggar systems there as well, grafted into place by the racketeers who know they're going to get money for looking poor and fitting the stereotypical image found in the Indian Steve McCurry photographs, or Danny Boyle's, unbelievably naïve, Slumdog Millionaire.

    In Ahmedabad, like I said, it is very difficult to make out the struggling from the moderately settled, they innovate with what resources they have, they multi task and work multiple jobs, they live in large joint families where older adults take care of all the little, and there is no explicit turning up of the nose to those who have lesser. You see the same systems in the lower income families too, the same system in place with lesser resources, all the old men read the morning newspaper out at their front steps, cots are put out for the old women to sit out in the open, in the cool morning air, so they can watch the street; women send down baskets tied to ropes from their third storey windows to passing street vendors, children play cricket in any vacant street they can find, the milkmen connect all the houses, well off or struggling, into the circuit; the knife sharpener sharpens all the womens' knives on his wheel, prasaad is distributed to all in sight by men or women returning from the morning temple prayers, the azaan rings out in the air right in the middle of the bustle, and feels like the perfect soundtrack to the scene of daily life unfolding.
    I see great hope in this kind of subsistence, this free chance to live with what you have, this chance to focus on what you can do with your own hands to make things better, without being worried about your standing in society compared to the people who live down the street, a better way of living just might emerge(!).

    I was walking down one of the streets in the old city when I stopped to watch a woman wash her clothes by the street side tap near her house. She saw me and smiled, and seeing the camera waved me over to her two little ones by the doorstep. The littler one was contently sitting on the floor outdoors about to start chewing on something she found on the ground, her elder sister rushed in to take it away before it reached her mouth, little one got up in anger, and I saw a cloth wound her leg loosely tied to the front door. I burst out laughing. The mother laughed too while still washing her bucket of clothes, she couldn't get any work done with this monster in the way, she said, always putting things into her mouth or wandering onto the street inspite of her older sister being around, it was the only way to keep her in a radius.

    If someone not used to this way of living saw this, they'd cry about it being inhuman, about it being traumatic for the child,.. I'd just say it was a free-er version of a double strap down stroller or a better alternative, come to think of it, of those hideously restraining four poster baby cots.
    Interesting how the ways of seeing, change, when you stop to have a conversation.
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