Thursday, November 16, 2006

Seemingly well-off people asking for money

Let me narrate an incident that has repeated itself several times, across 2 cities in India and left me puzzled everytime as to what is the best thing to do ? I ask the readers a question - how many times has this happened to you ?

The first time it happened, I was living in Chennai. I had gone to visit a friend in Adyar, and there an old lady (decently dressed) stopped me and asked me for help. She claimed that she was from out of town, had her purse stolen and had no money to get back, and no money for food. She asked me for around Rs. 200 to get a bit to eat, and then to get back to her city. This was coupled with an apologetic tone where she said that she was embarrased to be asking for money, but she had no option. She assured me that she will get the money back to me. This entire conversation was in English. I felt sympathy, and gave her the money along with my card (so that she could return me the money :-) ).

There was a feeling of having done a good deed for the day. After around 7 days, I had a niggling feeling, where was my money ? I rationalized it, maybe she forgot, or she lost the card. Doesen't matter.

Next, a couple of months later, there was a middle aged guy, looking like any normal shop keeper, who was carrying a briefcase. He showed me his briefcase, with clothes in it. He had a young kid with him as well. He claimed that he had come from Madurai for some work, and had his pocket picked. Needed money for food and for return, and would I help him. Money will get back to me later. I again felt sympathy, and handed him around Rs. 300. Needless to say, lots of thanks, and no money back.

Next location, Delhi. I had shifted to Delhi, and when on my way back to my home with spouse, met a pretty smartly dressed around 45 year old guy desperately flagging down my car. This guy was (guess, from out of town and had his pocket picked), and needed a lift to as close to the bus stand and money to return. All I had to give was give my card. I was newly married, this is a good occassion to show the spouse how compassionate I was :-), and out came a Rs. 500 note. So I gave him a lift, and you guessed it, no money back.

Numerous others, but the last one of a few days back, when came across a seemingly small town family. Father claimed that no money after a theft, needed food and transport money at Rs. 100 per head for 5 people. So I gave Rs. 600, and since it has only be a few days, maybe I will get my money back.

Now I now that there is a sucker born every minute, so maybe I was one of the super-suckers. I have never got any money back from these donations, and these are not the beggar type Rs. 1-5 money, but more in the hundreds. I don't know what to do the next time, if I don't give, I will keep on thinking about it later. I rationalize it everytime, maybe it helped the person, even though he never bothered to return the money. However, if this is more of a racket, then I am actually promoting this kind of fraud.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 11:35 AM