If you happen to cross any big traffic junction leading towards Hitec city in Hyderabad on a weekday morning, you would notice a stark contrast among two tribes that happen to meet there. One going to work and the other already working.
On one hand, there would be the sleek software professionals heading to office to start their day. Most will be nattily dressed. In their hurry, they do not spare a second thought about their surroundings and just go about their daily life. But they are not a homogeneous tribe. They have different echelons of power within them. The ones higher in the pedestal would be cocooned in air conditioned cars, comfortably separated from the crowd, their heads buried into the morning pink paper. Most of the masses would be sleepy heads slumped over two-wheelers. And the rest would be dragging themselves on their own lazy feet. But all of these software professionals would have the tool of their trade slinging across their back or handing on their shoulder - a knapsack or a laptop bag. And again, almost all of them would be brandishing weapons of mass communications - their Smartphone - in their hands or belts. If you brush past them, you can get a whiff of a branded perfume or deodorant, along with a nonchalance look and an above-than-thou frown.
On the other hand, on the sidelines of the road, there would be some others, who would have already started their official day. Among these, there would be small children. These children do not dread to wake up in the morning to go to the school. Instead, every morning, they wake up to clean the cars which stop in the traffic signal. Clad scantily in tatters and holding a dirty rag in their dirty hands, they go about their business. The car actually never gets cleaned. But then, under that muse, they can beg for some money from the well heeled to quench the fire in their stomach. Then there would be young women in the group as well. Mostly, they would be carrying a malnourished baby with them. The child would be covered in soiled clothes and invariably have their eyes closed. They would seek sympathy and ask money for the starving child. Then there would be impoverished older folks with some deformities and diseases. Blood and pus would be oozing out from old bandages in their head or hands. They would tap against your car window or if you are waiting on a bike for the signal to turn green, they will take the opportunity to touch your hands or tug your sleeves for a few coins.
The office-goers, on their part, will be squirming inside whenever they see someone from the other tribe approaching. Some of them will throw a few coins just to get rid of the beggars. Others would maintain a stoic silence after a cold look towards them.
By their look, attire and language, you can fairly well infer that most of these road side beggars are not native to Hyderabad. You don’t need any market research or governmental committee report to prove it. Yes, just by looking at them you can say that they have migrated from some other region. But have you ever wondered what made them leave their homes, villages and native places and come to cities like Hyderabad to eke out a living by whatever means possible?
These folks are driven by the same forces that have made most of us leave our native place and find our feet in another city or state or country. Lack of prospect in the native place and a hint of a good future somewhere else make all of us move. The situation is same everywhere. These people also face the same fear and anxiety that we all have. They also undergo the daily grind. Their life in fact is even tougher.
But there is a big difference as well. Many of these people and their ancestors were folks who survived on their own in their villages. But, with so called socio-economic progress of the country and with advent of industrialization and advanced communication technologies, there has been a massive change in social and cultural structure in the communities they served.
I remember in my childhood, there were snake charmers, monkey-dancers and bear-dancers that came during specific time of the year. They would entertain us with their performance and their animals. They were basically nomads who moved from one place to another. Ever wondered where these folks and their kith and kin’s have gone now? Their livelihood was snatched away some times directly by government regulations to protect animals and other times indirectly by changes sweeping our country. Unlike us, they could not adapt to the new changes coming in. They got left out - left out by the society, left out by the government, left out by all of us.
The nomadic tribes have even bigger plight of not having an address to officially prove that they are residents of this country. Lack of education exacerbates their problems and they are not even aware of their rights. Recently, I watched a video of a speech made by Mittal Patel at the TEDxGateway Mumbai, organized by Franklin Templeton Investments in December 2012. I realized how ignorant I was of the plight. Wonderful people like Mittal Patel, are working hard to improve the plight of the nomads, country artisans and entertainers.
So, the next time, you see some of these nomadic folks; do not just give them some money and feel good about it. Please join hand with people like Mittal Patel. Strengthen the cause. Spread the word.