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?

Beggar Girl in Old Delhi
Beggar Girl in Old Delhi

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?

For more information on Vicky Collins visit

3 thoughts on “Slumdogs

  1. Hi, there … I also loved Slumdog … haven’t gotten to India yet, but your comments about the comparison to film and reality are spot on. I’ve also been torn about giving to begging children in the Third World. It’s tough to see, for sure, but would a donation to an agency that tries to help be a better route?

  2. I believe not giving alms to beggars is the first step towards ending beggary. I read this phrase somewhere: Give them a penny, you feed them for a day; teach them a trade, you feed them for their entire life!
    Giving money or food or clothes is not the permanent solution to this menace.
    We have started this campaign in Gurgaon to spread the awareness on why one should not give alms to beggars. The ground work is going on for it. We have made a community on orkut for the same. Here is the link:
    Lets share ideas on how can we contribute to put an end to beggary in India.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s