As noted in my post: Days are Flying By: Day 6, I ran into some hustlers the other day. Be forewarned, by the way I feel today, I am clearly hormonal from my shots. Happened to me last IVF cycle right around this time as well.
Friday I went in search of a store I heard about from the http://dr-patel-surrogacy.com/ forum (started from a former patient of Dr. Patel's). The store was called 7-eleven and it was the local baby store. I wanted to check to see if they had any Indian clothes for one of my BFF's that is expecting in October. She and her husband lived in India for a short duration many years ago and I knew she would love it.
A gentleman at the clinic gave me directions, but I got a little lost on the way. Not a super big deal because I was close enough to the clinic that I knew I could find my way back if needed. Plus I had a map on my phone of where I was going, and used it in tandem with the remarkably accurate iPhone map (that locates where you are.) No biggie.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman walking some distance away, carrying another women. Having recently watch the CARE video (netflix) on polio, I instantly assume she is carrying a relative that has been struck with that horrible disease; especially since it is not uncommon in India. I've seen it in many other parts of India, but I can't remember seeing it in Anand (with the possible exception of a girl I gave money to outside the clinic the other day).
The ladies and I were walking at opposite ends of a right angle, thus our paths were bound to cross. I knew she would ask for money, and I'm a sucker for that sort of thing (though less in major cities as it is sometimes connected to nefarious groups). As soon as our eyes met she headed for me and I acquiesced by giving her a small bit: more than my Indian friends would have approved of, but still a paltry amount by US standards. She asked for more, but I declined. Something about when a beggar asks for more usually sends a red flag up in my experience. The heat is getting to me and I sit down on some stairs for a minute. Sure enough, I watch as the woman, now a block away, sets the other woman down and they continue walking, smiling, and chatting. I shake my head and smile as you can only do when these things happen.
Another elderly woman approaches and I give her a small amount as well. She's old and is almost completely void of pigment. Something about her rings true and she thanks/blesses me as she walks away. I figure at this point I should move away from the area I am in. It's heavily populated and too many people have seen me give money away. There are no other non-Indians anywhere to be seen and I have just painted a big bulls-eye on myself. Start walking a different direction and less than 60 seconds passes when 2 girls start following me.
Here is when I start to bristle. These girl are not poor. This is quite obviously a game to them. They are dressed well in good saris and are giggling as much as they are begging. Clearly this is a game to see if I will pay them to leave me alone. They follow me creating a scene, begging, giggling, and occasionally pulling at my shirt as I walk. Let me pause here it say that the last part is especially stressful for me as I used to have anxiety attacks about stuff like that. Just crowds in general with people bumping into me. (I've come a long way baby.)
I repeatedly tell the girls "no" in english and in Hindi. My breath starts getting a little shallow, but I'm determined not to let it get to me. Realize that even if I WANTED to pay them to leave me alone, that this will invite others to harass me, so I hold steadfast in my principles even though it is only a miniscule amount. A shopkeeper, half laughing, takes pity on me at a corner and tells the girls to leave me alone. After a few stern comments from him and my continue refusal to give in, they finally walk away laughing. I take a deep breath, shrug/smile at the shop keeper, thank him, and continue on my journey. As I resume looking for the 7-eleven, I notice that I had just begun to shake a little. My in-laws words "take no tension!" echo in my ear.
The shop is right around the corner, and I welcome the cool AC. They have some FREAKING AWESOME Indian baby clothes. In my heart I know I can't buy these on my own because I will be horrifically overcharged, so I tell them I will come back with my husband. I think he will be tickled when he sees the little outfits, but may have been irritated if I let them rob me. Anyway, I'm in no mood to bargain.
This is probably one of my biggest stresses of India. I do not mind helping people (beggars) who are genuinely poor and have very few options, but the scammers make this difficult. Part of your heart begins to harden because you begin to notice so many hustles. What is one to do? Many times I think of trying to start a project that helps people in severe poverty, but right now the idea is overshadowed with self-doubts of how I would be able to do this effectively as a foreigner.
Had some further things tried on me today when trying to purchase some local fruit, but I'll save that for another post. That's probably what set me off today as I was trying to buy extra fruit to give away instead of money. In my mind I thought it was a win-win: help a vendor by purchasing and have something for people on hand that are genuinely hungry (and makes me less of a target.) Hormones and people trying to charge me too much, made this idea a bust.
These are the complications I don't have to worry about when I help animals.