All entries for Wednesday 28 December 2005

December 28, 2005

32 minutes

It's really awkward when a beggar is pulling your sleeve asking for money and you have to pretend you don't see him, because looking him in the eyes somehow obliges you to give. In China, people would usually blatantly shake the beggars off, sometimes with a couple of swear words to make the point clear. In Russia – it’s the strategy of ignoring people. Some still give, whether to get rid of the change ripping holes in the pockets of their expensive suits, or because they feel particularly sympathetic to one particular beggar. I've stopped giving, because there are too many of them. My mind has gone numb to all the avoidable deaths.

Each time I take the subway train from my parents' to my dorm I inevitably run into a beggar. They walk into the carriage and start pleading right away. They usually have one the same speech involving Jesus, the kind passengers, help, food, shelter, mercy, sympathy, however much one can give – not necessarily in the same order. For illustration purposes, they demonstrate the remains of their chopped down limbs, their little children, their prosthetic devices, their pension allowances, their medals for bravery awarded in the Second Chechen war, certificates of death of their guardians, cheques for their children’s funerals. People give selectively. People beg selectively, too.

Whenever a beggar comes into a carriage, he or she has the power to bend every passenger’s head downwards. Everyone is suddenly taking a nap, reading textbooks or peeping into the neighbour’s newspaper. Everyone suddenly experience the urge to compose a text message, look for flies on the ceiling or watch the darkness of the tunnel outside the windows of the train. As soon as the beggar walks pass these passengers, they quit doing whatever they were so passionately engaged in and silently watch the beggar leave. Usually, two or three people manage to pull out a 10 roubles banknote and hand it to the needy in exchange for a blessing from the beggar. The number of donations doesn’t depend on the severity of condition. We’ve seen it all. I guess people now pay for originality.

Every time I spot a beggar I dig my head further into textbooks, telling myself I will one day make the world a better place and eliminate poverty altogether. Until then I won’t give a penny. And then I hate myself for having such a shite excuse.


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