I can’t get the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” out of my mind. Just like India, it was surprising and unexpected. The beauty and brutality are staying with me. It made me think back to a little street urchin who came up to our car window in Old Delhi. I can’t get her out of my thoughts either. She approached our vehicle when we were stopped at an intersection. She put her fingers to her mouth to indicate she was hungry just like the little beggars did in the movie. I asked if I could take her photo and she smiled for the camera. I dug into my wallet. No rupee coins. I gave her some pennies instead. My companion was disgusted with me. He pointed out that my American money was of no value to her. That it was insulting to give her something she could not use. I felt angry and judged. How was it worse to give her a small amount as opposed to nothing at all? He did not go for his wallet. Was it better to ignore her altogether?
It’s a dilemma in India when you see these children. You want to help but you’re advised not to. As in the movie, they are exploited by adults. We saw many beggar children in Old Delhi. When people gave them coins on the steps of the mosque they would scramble to nearby adults and turn them over. You heard stories about families who would cut off the limb of a child or blind him so he would have a more lucrative career as a beggar. The cruelty is staggering. The movie captured the horror. It is difficult to turn away from the faces in the car window, from the children at intersections with hungry eyes or the ones who make you laugh with their quirky little dances. When I was in Delhi they seemed like nuisances. I wanted to shoo them off. But it occurred to me when I saw the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” that each one of these children has a story. What is that story worth? Something or nothing at all?
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