Dhu'l Qadah 1424 H
Volume 17-01 No : 205
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Begging may be one of the most despicable, hated, acts. Travelling through the streets of Mumbai, Mohammed Hanif Lakdawala discovers that it's here that Muslim beggars are not only choosers, but financiers too!
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Hurry up. Ramadan has ended, but the Haj session is on. The Beggars Inc coffers are full with hard cash. Now here are few members of the unorganised Beggar’s Inc. Begging may be one of the most despicable, hated, acts. But there are a few ingenious that have not only converted begging into a profession, but also into an art par excellence.
Rehan Babu, 49,lost his right hand in an accident in childhood. He is one of them in the big league. His total collection in Ramadan was Rs 84,000. Rehan is always in clean white pyjama-kurta. He positions himself outside Khara Tank Road mosque in south Mumbai. “Festival season brings us the maximum collections as not only the quantity of alms increases, but also the quality which converts into greater volume”, said Rehan. Rehan does not deposit his collection in the bank. Like a smart investor, Rehan invests his capital in the business. Many of the hawkers in the Khara Tank area borrow money from him and give him the share from their earnings. “I do not charge any interest. At the end of the week, I collect my share of the 10 percent profit from the borrowers. This way I benefit in two ways .My income increases and also its gets a safe parking space for my money” said Rehan.
Iqbal Shah, 53, is not disabled, but still rakes in the highest collection amongst the beggars who sit along the path leading to the famous Haji Ali shrine. Iqbal has a unique strategy. He has the knack of identifying his customer who can give generous alms. He accompanies them all the way to the shrine and on the way gives a detail history of the shrine as also few glimpses from the life of the saint. “Most of my customers pay me a good amount and often without my asking” said Iqbal. Iqbal’s collection fluctuates from 15,000 to 40,000 per month. He deposits his collection with a hotel near by. “I deposit my daily collection with the owner of the hotel. He gets opportunity for rolling my money and
I get a safe custody for my collection”, said Iqbal.” Once in three months, I collect my amount and go to my native place where I invest in farming activities which provides the bread and butter for my brothers”.
Beggars are not choosers. But this does not hold true of the selected beggars who line up the road outside the shrine of Abdul Rehman Shah Baba at Dongi in south Mumbai. They have a distinct identity. They dress neatly, groom their hair well and are experts at offering specific prayers on a slew of religious occasions. When this correspondent invited one of them named Shah Saeed for a lunch, instead of accepting the invitation, he quizzed on the menu. Surprisingly, Saeed refused to come when he was told that the lunch comprised vegetable pulav.
Saeed revealed that they attend only those religious functions where there is a generous spread of food of all varieties more specifically non-vegetarian dishes and where the amount of alms is between Rs 250-Rs 500 and not less than this! “I have no problem getting invitations. I not only get invited for lunch and dinner, but also get paid for it. All I have to do is complete few religious formalities which I learnt from my Guru Shah Kader who expired couple of years ago,” says Saeed.
Papu Mirza, 39,dressed in simple unstitched white clothes and bare feet, positions himself outside the Dargah, in Central Mumbai. Like a tiger on prowl, Mirza keeps a watchful eye on all the visitors to the Dargah. The target selected by him more often ends up fulfilling his demand. What’s his demand? Few hundred rupees to perform exclusive prayers for his target. “ I decide the rate after I speak to the individual. I observe them, which car they come in and how well dressed they are. Most of the time, I get what I asked for, even Rs 1000.I do perform the exclusive prayers for them and give on interest the amount I saved out of this,’’ he says.
Badshah Mia does not beg himself. He has a unique strategy. He assembles a team of infants and children who beg on his behalf. He positions them in the different Mosques and dargahs as per the visiting days associated with them. Every Thursday, he selects Mahim dargah; Friday is reserved for a mosque in south Mumbai,as on this day maximum people visit these dargah.
Badshah Mia hires these infants and children from his relatives and friends and gives then Rs 50 per child. If the child is disabled, he will be given preference. Though not willing to disclose his daily collection, Badshah Mia said that he has five hawking carts placed across these Mosques and dargahs. “In a way I help so many families by employing their children. Most of these parents borrow money from me. I do not charge any interest,” he said.
Saifee Kagalwala, owns a medical store in south Mumbai. He has solved his liquid cash problem by be-friending couple of beggars. Saifee offers the safe custody for their money and in turn gets enough hard cash to take care of his daily turn over needs. “Initially I contacted couple of beggars for my coins requirement during the shortage. Many times, they bring change in the quantity, which even I found difficult to exchange. I have been nice and cooperative to them; couple of beggars approached me to keep their money in safe custody. I willingly agreed”, said Kagalwala.
Rashid babu, who positioned himself outside the mosque next to Saifee’s medical store, deposits his daily collection with them. He has kept a steel safe with a huge lock and iron chain with Saifee at his medical store.” I have kept all my savings in this safe which Saifee bhai has kept in his medical store. In return I give him interest free loan when ever he requires for his daily turnover”, said Rashid.
Abdul who sells fruits on the roadside at Bhendi Bazar in south Mumbai has not taken loan from any bank for the capital required, but received help from one of the beggars of the area. “ I pay him monthly installments which includes 25 per cent share in the profit”, he said.
Mumbai is often referred to as the city of fulfilling dreams. No doubt it’s in Mumbai only where even beggars are choosers and financiers too!
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