Appearances can often be deceptive. Two beggars at work in DHA.—Fahim Siddiqi  / White Star
Appearances can often be deceptive. Two beggars at work in DHA.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: They don’t advertise for your zakat donations on big panaflex pasted on building walls or billboards, but they are also there making their presence felt in a big way. There are certain rules to begging that all beggars know and that one should also get to know for one’s own good. Whenever one is eating anything, one will find a beggar closer than that morsel of food one is about to put into one’s mouth. Then one needs to give him (or her or them) something to let one eat in peace. It happens more during Ramazan as more beggars descend upon the big city from all parts of the country because, well, it is the time to give. And the bigger the city, the more loaded the citizens and thus ... the bigger the charity.

But zakat isn’t all that is on the minds of the beggars. Upon arrival, they first need to find for themselves a nice spot for business. The good spots are taken usually. And they don’t come free either. And the best spots are in Clifton and Defence. These days you also find beggars squatting by the roadside in quiet neighbourhood streets in DHA. Perhaps they get such spots for free or perhaps they were afraid to be picked up by the anti-beggary police.

Then begging alone is not good. You need to have a partner. Beggar women must be accompanied with a child, the younger the better. Hearts don’t melt at seeing them alone. In fact they are viewed indecently when without little children, unless that is the intention.

New beggars decsend on all areas particularly DHA, Clifton; menace of beggary thrives as the needy and greedy get muddled up

“My mother is sick, I need to get her medicine, I need to get her food,” begged a young man at Schon Circle in Clifton. When asked to move out of the way, he explained that he was not a beggar he was selling attar, a little bottle of which he brought out of cloth bag that he was carrying. Then why didn’t he say so in the first place instead of talking about his sick mother? Do the attar sellers in the nice big shops in Saddar also make sales starting like this?

The man selling shalwar and pajama drawstrings, or izarbund, also had a similar sob story to tell, which people didn’t seem too impressed by. That little four- or five-year-old unwashed child next to him was also not gathering much attention near the Ashiana Shopping Mall.

But that abaya-clad mother with pleading eyes who was with a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl sitting on a sidewalk as one entered Zamazama from Do Talwar made one want to turn around to look at them even after passing them by. The little girl was also holding up a placard with all their hardships listed on it. One wondered where the man in the family was only to read soon enough that he was sick and bedridden.

A little ahead, another mother with a young child by her side and a wailing baby in her arms said that her husband was dead. Two days later the same women could be found at the same spots but somehow the children with them were different although they were of the same size.

More women and children were found sitting in lines outside small eateries in DHA’s commercial areas, especially the Phase II Commercial Area off Korangi Road where the people who came to eat themselves were paying for their meals. On average every other customer is seen paying for the meals of five or 10 persons.

Many homes, especially in DHA are marked by the needy (read greedy) for free giveaways, even by those who are new or just visiting here. Some gather outside their gates soon around Iftar time for free food and whatever else that is on offer for free. The gifts become bigger and better as the month moves ahead. Close to Eid the freebies include new clothes and footwear, too. “Yes beggary is a menace, but during Ramazan, we are also looking to help the needy, so they are welcome to come here. We don’t send away anyone empty-handed,” said one person distributing food and gifts to the ‘poor’ gathered outside his home.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2022

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