Preparing for the Games: Delhi beggars learn languages

May 6th, 2009 - 10:13 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) Beggars cannot be choosers, but beggars are quick to spot an opportunity, especially when there is a buzz in the city about “thousands of tourists” flocking here for the Commonwealth Games next year.
And beggars are gearing up for it by learning not just English but languages like French and Spanish as well, not knowing that only English is spoken in all the Commonwealth countries.

“There will be thousands of foreign tourists when the games are going on. That is why some beggar families are teaching younger child beggars to beg in foreign languages,” said Savitri, a street performer from Prem Nagar, west Delhi.

Savitri’s extended family of 25 people, including 15 children, belongs to the Nat jati (tribe) of Chhattisgarh that performs acrobatics and tight rope tricks on the capital’s streets to earn money, especially from foreigners.

“We say: Please sir! Give me ten rupees! Anything…,” demonstrated her daughter Kusum, a 10-year-old child acrobat.

Vijay Babli, who claimed to be the leader of over 1,200 mendicant families living in Lal Quarter in Rohini, northwest Delhi, was recently quoted as saying that “classes” had begun to prepare the young alms-seekers to target the large number of tourists expected for the Games in October 2010.

“Even if one beggar earns 150-200 rupees per day ($3-4), you can understand the turnover for us,” he said.

The community has even set up an informal academy in the area.

Many beggar children who have never been to school could speak English, French and Spanish, all thanks to the classes, Babli said.

The trend to ask foreigners for alms in their own languages adds a “personal touch”, said a beggar at the Jantar Mantar observatory that draws a lot of tourists.

The beggars were also imparted training in distinguishing foreign currency notes - to recognize value, said a resident of Kathputli colony, who did not wish to give his name.

Beggars posted at famous tourist spots like India Gate, Jama Masjid, the Bahai Mandir area and other shopping hubs like Connought Place often learn just a few sentences in foreign languages.

Nikolina, a Croatian national studying here, was surprised when a beggar asked her in English where she was from.

“I was shocked when a man dressed in rags approached me and asked me in English if I was German, or French, and started saying please give me money in various languages,” she said incredulously.

–Indo-Asain News Service

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