The Beggar Boy

by Sat Mandir Singh Khalsa (Virginia), Grade 12 Miri Piri Academy, Amritsar, India, December 10, 2006

"A few weeks ago, during a so-far uneventful G.T. (Golden Temple) trip, I was walking along, minding my own business, when I suddenly felt a tug on the side of my chola. I looked down and saw a scrappy-looking beggar boy about seven or eight years old staring up at me, hand outstretched. He looked pitiful. He had long, greasy hair that was draped sloppily over his face and almost concealed his big, round eyes, which portrayed an emotion of deep sorrow. A tattered hemp shirt that was much too small for him was pulled as far as it would go over a cavity of a stomach, which indented his skeletal frame. Covering his twig-like legs was a pair of old, hand-me-down trousers that were torn and faded from generations of use. His feet were shoeless and calloused from many years of walking barefoot through the rough streets of Amritsar. From head to toe, he was covered in a thick coat of dirt and grime that darkened and splotched his skin.

He was repulsive, and he’d touched me! I felt contaminated. I quickly turned and hurried back up the street. Pausing at a nearby shop, I bought an ice cream, thinking it might help purge my mind of the dirty little boy. It didn’t. I kept thinking about those big, sad eyes staring up at me. Why did he make me feel so guilty? I wasn’t responsible for putting him on the street, for forcing him to beg. I hadn’t hurt him… but I hadn’t helped him either. He was in need, but instead of feeling sympathy for him, I felt disgust, as if he didn’t have feelings, as if he weren’t human. I was angry with myself. How could I have brushed him off so easily, without a second thought, as if he were some insect crawling up my leg?

I finished the ice cream bar, bought a second for later, and continued on up the street. About a hundred feet away, I came to a second shop. The storefront was packed with MPA students, all matching in their blue cholas with miniature adi shaktis patched onto the sides. Each one had a five or a ten or a twenty rupee note in his or her hand and was jabbing it at the men behind the counter, hoping to catch their attention so that THEY would be first to be served. I realized how awfully rude this was and made a mental note to myself to be a little more respectful in the future.

I turned away from the shop and continued on my journey up the street. I heard someone call out my name. Still walking, I looked back over my shoulder to see what he wanted. I never found out. Just after I had turned around, my legs hit into something and I had to stumble forward to prevent myself from falling. Startled, I looked down and standing there before me was the little beggar boy, in exactly the same position with his arm outstretched, palm cupped, staring.

My first thoughts were similar to the ones I had had during our previous encounter, but I soon silenced my mind and took control. Remembering the ice cream bar in my pocket, I took it out and handed it to him. His eyes instantly illuminated, and he smiled so widely that I could see tops of his gums. In the blink of an eye he had the ice cream out of its wrapper and into his mouth.

A few seconds later, I was surrounded by an entire posse of children, all looking at me hopefully. I turned back to the shop, ordered ten more ice creams, and began handing them out. The rest of the children’s reactions were similar to that of the first. One by one they took their treat gratefully, being extremely careful not to drop it. Then they slowly licked away, savoring every moment. When they finished they skipped away, rejuvenated and content. As I watched them go, I realized how such a small sacrifice on my part could make such a large impact on others less fortunate."

29 Responses to “The Beggar Boy”

  1. Amarjot Singh says:

    Sat Mandir, you experienced the difference between passion and compassion in this, real life, incident. And of-course you realized and felt how comforting it is, and the contentment it brings to our heart. It’s something that cannot be put in words.

    Satnam!!

  2. g says:

    Its amazing to know how you have handled the situation. The amazing part is that you did anaylsis of your thoughts, and emotions; And how you reacted to it.

    It wonderful to know that you guys are developing emotional intelligence along with academic intelligence at very young age. At large society lacks emotional intelligence and very few people may develop it during their life time.

    Its is a difficult situation because if you feed one person 50 more will pop out. I have experienced it myself but overtime we tend to ignore them. However, their is no soluton to that problem, which can be applied to solve it.

    I think guru ji does challenges our thought process and actions by many different ways in life. We do claim ( especially like me) that we do seva, and meditation. But do we really follow that?

    Again, you done a great job. I see our future sikh leaders, who will lead the sikh nation at very high levels.

    I should learn from you.

  3. Gurinder Singh says:

    Sat Mandir Singh Khalsa ji, well done, you passed the test buddy with flying colours! You have understood the true meaning of ‘Vand Ke Shakna’. You are blessed!
    Gurinder Singh (UK)

  4. Hari Singh Khalsa says:

    Sat Mandir,

    I was happy to read this account for two reasons. The first reason being the resolution you decided upon and the second being the literary skills displayed. I’m proud of you for being honest with yourself about your negative reaction to the boy and bringing yourself to overcome this reaction to serve him.
    I’m also proud of you for being able to explicitely detail every aspect of this story so that we could have a sense of what your experience was like. Although this event was real this is the mark of a good fiction writer. Have you given any thought to what you might produce with your later writings? Do we have the next great Sikh fiction writer on our hands? Or perhaps a future journalist that does justice to the panth?
    Even if you don’t have plans for future writing you’ve already developed a fan base through this posting on Guru Mustuk’s blog.

    Thanks,
    Hari

  5. Prabhjot Singh says:

    Hi,

    I will not say that what ever you did was wrong, certainly it was a good gesture to feed the poor. However, i still felt that as per Guru Nanak Golden rule, ‘Kirat Karo’ or do your duties.

    I still felt that by feeding the beggars we are encouraging them to beg, I would have like if we could do something so that these beggars, can live life with dignity.

    I feel if we can have some society set up by Sikhs where we can address such issue at a larger scale rather than fighting over Dera issue

  6. Baljit says:

    Very Good.
    Vand Khao Khand Khao

  7. Gunjeet Singh says:

    Waheguru G Ka Khalsa
    Waheguru g Ki Fateh

    dear Mandir Singh Khalsa
    first of all congratulate you for having darshan of Sahib Shri Guru Amardas g in G.T.
    dear i read your journey experience and feel that you are very soft hearted and very kind. my engligh is not good so sorry for that.

    waheguru g bless you in your all ways take care

    your gur bhai(brother)
    Gunjeet Singh
    New Delhi
    India

  8. Gurjeet Singh says:

    Khalsa Ji, this is a very thoughtful event that you have encountered, on one side you can witness the emblished Harmandir Sahib and on the other side you can stare at the pitiful situation that we as humans undergo. The Beggar boy is one of phases of us being a human being.

    Your thoughts are so true and the way you have portrayed the incident is really appreciable. Thank you for sharing your experience………… Guru Fateh !!!

  9. Bayant Singh says:

    I think you are wonderfully blessed to be able to rationalize your thoughts and be able to manifest the ways of “man of god”,who by compassion cure the ills of
    humanity.Remember the saakhi of Baba Nanak and the leper? Let’s also adore Guru Hargobind ji”garib da muh,
    guru ki golak”.
    I think you’ll make a lovely ministerial sewadaar of the
    sikh panth.
    waheguru anand bakshe.

  10. Dr Sandeep Singh says:

    Dear Sat Mandir Singh Khalsa,
    I am overwhelmed after reading vivid description and how you handled the situation.Manytimes we also come accross same situation but turn our eye towards otherside, even though one feels guilty of not able to do anything. you have shown the way.Compassion is the way to contentment.
    DUKH BHUKH SAD MAAR EH BHEE DAT TERI DATAAR.
    if God has given us in plenty then it is meant to be shared with people who have nothing.
    dhan Guru nanak.
    we are proud of you as Khalsa.

  11. dr manmohan singh says:

    wahe guru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh.
    dear friend what ever you did was in according to the guru’s preachings.i appriciate your deeds. there is other side of the story. u can see a lot of such kind of people and most of those are working under the mafia.these people exploit our feelings to extract some thing from us . they get a lot by the day and that is kept by mafia and a small portion of it is given back to them. so in one way or the other we are the main culprits to encourage such practice. now a days it is very difficult to find a real needy one.what ever we donate or give otherwise do not help the real needy person.
    thanks
    wahe guru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh.

  12. teji says:

    Guru FAteh Ji
    God Bless U .See people always ask y there is such pain in thins world.Well God did put alot of suffering but God also sent Guru Ji to make the Khalsa.If we all had ur passuion and spread it to the world life would be perfect.Raj Karega Khalsa
    Guru Rakha
    teji KAur

  13. Dear Sat Mandir,

    they must have been the happiest little children in the world that day!

    poverty is so rampant in india that it doesnt take long for our hearts to shut it off; its easier to deal with it when we pretend it doesnt exist, and then we can stop feeling guilty for having what others dont.

    congratulations on being able to look AT poverty, rather that THROUGH it. compassion makes us human and you have proven how a simple act of love will cause a smile so wide, that, as you said, we will see the tops of their gums :)

    satnam

  14. Ravinder Singh says:

    Dear Sat Mandir Singh,

    You indeed are a very good writer. Our panth do need people like you. I admire your skills. I do agree with you that a small sacrifice on our part can bring hapiness to those who are less fortunate.

    However, I feel that the beggar boy you described is still a beggar and your act of kindness didn’t dramatically change his life situation.It did bring a fleeting hapiness to his face and you deserve all the credit for that. What we need to do collectively as a panth is to change their miserable life situations by providing them with much needed education, lodging and food. This could enable them to break the vicious circle of poverty.

    I have heard that some people adopt a poor child, pay for his education and other needs. This too is an act of kindness and a long-term comittment. However, it brings about a much deeper effect and turns a potential beggar into a useful member of society.

    I do agree with you that we should be kind and not dismissive. It is better to light a candle then to curse the darkness.

    Your Veer

    Ravinder Singh

  15. SatSundri Kaur says:

    Sat Nam Sat Mandir Singh ji. Thank you for sharing this experience. It is so good to know that, especially at Harimandir Sahib – langar is there for all to partake, at all hours. Even perhaps being located so close…sometimes one wouldn’t know to go there to satisfy the hunger. Blessings, SatSundri Kaur

  16. Sukhwinder Singh says:

    Hi Sat Mandir,

    I’m only 12, and your story is great! I’ve never been to India yet, and i’ve never had a begger ask me somthing. If some begger does ask me for somthing, i’ll remember your blog, and try to do the best i can. I know the first time you saw him, you ran away, but you should have never done that. But if it was the first time you saw a begger, it would be a little different. And you are absolutley correct that a small sacrifice can make a BIG IMPACT.

  17. Pardip Kaur says:

    I would have reacted the same at first..and then I’d too left guity..and then at last would also do the same what you did. Good job. These little things are what can bring happiness.

  18. Gurjeet Kaur says:

    Sat Mandir,

    I am really impressed with the way you handled the situation. Im sure this act of kindness will long be remembered by those children. Even if there is some kind of an oraganised network of beggars, i’m sure this money probably doesn’t really trickle down to those children. Although we cannot change the world overnight, let that not hold us back from performing even small gestures of kindness.

  19. WaheGuru says:

    waheguru! :’(

  20. WaheGuru says:

    WaheGuru! :’)

  21. Karamveer Singh says:

    Sat Shri Akaal Mandir Khalsa ji,

    I have read Your article and felt good about the way you treated the children well thats the best thing a guru ka singh can think about in that situation.

    I also agree with thoughts of Ravinder singh that”What we need to do collectively as a panth is to change their miserable life situations by providing them with much needed education, lodging and food. This could enable them to break the vicious circle of poverty.”

    But my point is do our community really have time from wastefull pleasured western lifestyle. I have seen so many people spend thousands of dollars on pets(dos and cats) and playing games like golf or bowling etc.
    “That money can be donated for wellfare of those children”.

    I really apologise if I hurt anyones feeling (and my english) but thats, reality.

    Rabh Rakha,
    Karamveer

  22. Patry Lerwick says:

    You were given a tremendous gift, the grace to not turn away from doing good. It is not in the great acts that one can really see our true character revealed but in the little ordinary events that occur in our lives. The poor (both physically and spiritually) has been given to us as wonderful opoortunities to share the compassion given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Whenever we have the opportunity to do good, let’s do it and count it a privilege and honor that HE has counted us wothy for HIS service. Peace, Patry

  23. sureshpal singh says:

    waheguru ji ka khalsa waheguru ji ki fateh

    I would like to comment on Prabhjot Singh’s analysis of the incident in relation to kirat kamao. Begging is against sikhism whereby we are taught to live a live of truthful living and honest work. While a believe that we should not encourage begging by handing out alms but rather teach them how to fish instead of giving them the fish so that they will never go hungry again, however there are exceptiotions to this rule. Children are innnocent and are either taught to beg out of poverty or through exploitation of the unscrupulous. Hence it was a truly great deed that will have far reaching implications on the lives of those children from this small selfless act.

    Hence it is truly a commendable act of compassion and charity in accordance with the teachings of sikhism. A truly inspiring story.

    sureshpal singh

  24. Baljit Kaur Hundal says:

    Satsrikal,
    Reading your above article I feel touched to my innermost conscience and I wouldn’t ever be able to express it in mere words. we sikh beleive a child is God’s another Roop and God himself probably came to test you Which you passed successfully and probably made him very happy as you have walked on True Sikhism path.

    Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahegur Ji Ki Fateh

  25. Gurinder Pal Singh says:

    We are proud of you Sat Mandir Singh. May God Shower all his blessing on you.

    Guru Fathe

    Gurinder Pal Singh

  26. Ghanaya Singh says:

    Well done young man !

    Blessed are those that understand the true meaning of SEWA (Selfless Service) of Humanity, by serving the weak and poor. satnam !

    Ghanaya

  27. Bhagauti says:

    I read your post and it was such a vivid description of the whole situation that I truly felt those large, brown eyes watching back! By the end of the story, I had tears in my eyes, and I was so glad that you got the chance to share your icecream with him! And not only that, many other kids too. Think about it, what are the chances that these kids have even tasted an icecream before? Maybe langar food, or leftover food, but icecream is a big treat that would remain in their memories as the “big treat day”! Your story really made my day today and I think I’m taking a lot of learnings from this story.

    I have always felt confused when I look at these beggar kids as to how I should deal with them. They can sometimes be a nuisance because they keep tugging at you to annoy you so you give your change to them. And then as soon as one gets some money, scores of others come out of nowhere and since you don’t have enough for them all, you end up feeling guilty anyway! And then there is the guilt of encouraging “beggar trade” which has the mafia behind them most of the times.And then sometimes when one sees these beggars thrive around areas where free langar is being served 24/7, you feel that these are nothing but lazy people but just want to make an easy buck off you.

    I think I learnt that giving/buying food is a lot more gratifying than giving money to beggars. And its better to spend a little more and feed all of these kids rather than just one, if time and money allows for it. That way you know that the food is going into their tummies and not to some mafia gang behind them. And icecream or chocolate is not such a bad idea occasionally because these are treats that they have seen other children enjoying all the time but never got the chance to taste those yum things.

    Beggars are going to be there in India unless they ban them. People say very high things that “panth should do something” and “we should adopt them instead” and they don’t realise that these things need a lot of like-minded people to come together and do something, which usually never happens and people will just only speak about such ideas rather than actually starting something. Lot of gurudwaras and pingalwaras are alredy doing such things and yet beggars are there.
    What do we do for them now? Isn’t the happiness of a fleeting meal much better than a non-existent plan for giving them long term security?
    Maybe one can choose to give food instead of money. But do something when that “glimpse of poverty” its staring in your face rather than make a 20 year plan for them.

    They rightly say, “Gareeb da muh, guru di golak”. And in this touching, real story, I think Guru gave the writer a second chance and allowed him to put true charity in his golak.

    Waaheguru ji ka Khalsa Waaheguru ji ka Fateh

  28. NavJeevan Singh Khalsa says:

    how many of us make on attempt to feed to Poor and Needy???????

    how many of us make donations to the poor kids!!!!

    Seva Seva Seva!!! Jehna nu lorr hai, ohna di Seva!!!

    I am livin in NZ from past 6 months.. What we have seen in the Wellington Gurudwara is that after the Gurbani Samagam is over, langar vartaya janda hai,

    mere khyaal naal kade v langar kise zarurat mand nu nai ditta gaya… asi taan pehlaan hi rajje pujje aa… Seva kithe gayi???