Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Head Scratchers - anyone?

Well, I am trying not to write a post that is going to make you scratch your head (dare you do that out of boredom), but this particular instrument has been amusing me for quite few days...Let me show you the picture of it if you have not seen it before:

This is a head scratcher...If you live in Mumbai, then you must have spotted these instruments being sold on will see from young kids to old ladies demonstrating how does it work is quite amusing to see them as they will have their head covered with saree pallu or a cap, but they will still be scratching it to sell the product...

Not only head-scratchers, there are number of products being sold on the streets and signals, like ear-buds, pens, pencils, umbrellas, shower caps (yes), drawing books, novels, bags, mosquito killer tennis racket (has anyone seen it? it works with batteries) and so on and so forth.

I wonder where these things get manufactured and how can they afford to sell it for 10 Rs. how many people must be making money out of this and how big the industry must be...all the people selling these things, are they actually so needy that they are fine with earning maybe 1 or 2 rupees each they manage to sell enough number of products to survive for that day or coming days? I don't know about all of them, but one such vendor fooled us once...

once my friend and I were traveling from south Mumbai by a cab...when we reached worli, at one of the signals, a kid of 5th standard requested us if we could drop him till Siddhi Vinayak was noon and we were anyways gonna pass by the temple, we decided to drop him...he was still in his uniform and selling pirated out of curiosity, we asked him where he stays and why he is selling books right now in stead of being at school? He said he belonged to a poor family, mother always remained sick and he owes 500 Rupees to the landlord...if he does not earn that money today itself, then they will have to vacant the room they are at present staying at...

his story moved us so much that we immediately asked him how we could help him? like can we buy the books or something? That time the new Chetan Bhagat book was out, and rest all we already had, so we asked him the price...he said it was for Rs. 250/- (the original book is for Rs. 95/-) thinking he was fooled by the person he bought the books from and wanted to help him out, we gave him 200/- and did not buy the book either...My friend's father was associated with an NGO that helped street kids, so we asked this kid to call us up so we can help him...the kid never called us...

Like it happens with most of us in our so called busy lives, we had completely forgotten about this whole incident until this friend happened to meet this kid again...this was couple of months after the first meeting with him, and my friend now had a short and highlighted this kid did not recognise her...and the same story friend got really angry and confronted the kid...he got so scared that on the next signal, he opened the cab door and ran for his life...

I remember one of the bloggers mentioning that she had offered work to a lady begging on the signal (please forgive my poor memory, I cannot recollect who had written that post, I came across it while blog hopping...please remind me if any of you has read it too) that lady refused to work as a cook or domestic help stating the reason that if she is making money without doing any work, then why should she ever try to work at all?

Maybe our experiences were bad, but this has at least made me not to trust these people and help them anymore...I might be wrong, but I am ready to change if you guarantee me that the help is going to right people.

PS: I was kind of tired of fictions and stories, so started scribbling randomly and this post is the result...hope you ain't scratching your head...


  1. How did you manage to write a post at this time of IST on a weekday, because it is showing me this was posted just barely half an hour back??

    Your experience is not quite uncommon, but then without taking the side of the beggers, are you being fooled only by them? If for say one of your friend breaks your trust, do you stop trusting all your friends? This may not be an exactly equivalent situation, but i hope what i am trying to say.

    This is the way i see it, for me it is never possible to verify whether my money is being spent for the right cause. I do not buy the logic that NGOs spend all our donated money in proper causes and these beggers are all cheater/lier. So if I stop doing it, may be the needy will also be affected. I look for physically handicapped, old people and help them, and not everyone else and pray that in more than half the cases, i am helping the right people.

    Was it a srs comment to a less serious post? then take as srsly as you want :P

  2. @ Mustaf, I have my own firm, so I have the liberty to take a break at the time I want...and I have been in office since 8 this morning, so was getting really bored of working, so took a small break and wrote this post, I love writing you see :)

    I got your point when you say that I do not stop trusting all my friends, but do I make anybody and everybody my friend on trial and error basis? well no..until I know that person, I won't make him/her my friend...

    again about NGOs, I believe in helping them out by spending time with them, or providing them food or maybe some education...are you aware that CRY outsources the work of collecting donations from people to an MNC? just think how much they must be earning that they can spend money behind such things...further, try to visit their corporate will get a shock of your even I am not saying that NGO money goes in right place...but other help can be given to people who need it right?

    ah, now my comment is more serious than my post...:))))

    thank you for sharing your views and honest opinion...

  3. There is always two sides of The Coin.
    Cheers !!!

  4. A head scratcher? I have never seen this...but I have seen the tennis racket.
    I always end up giving some money to these urchins knowing full well that I am being taken for a ride. My logic is he needs the money more than I do.I know this logic is seriously flawed as I am only encouraging him to fool more people. But kya kare, I am such a sucker for sob stories.

  5. @ Hobo, very true...

    @ Aparna, I do understand your logic and how you feel when you listen to their stories or look at the state they are in, but if they are gonna use your money for betting, boosing and doping, then it's better not to give them any na...

  6. You are right.. I always wonder how much do they earn per piece.But this is an amazing business model..

  7. Nice post. Excellent narration. Last time we visited India, we went to a restaurant in Chennai. There was a guy outside the restaurant begging for money. I offered to buy him dinner. He refused. He wanted only money to buy a "cutting". Then only I knew in Chennai "cutting" means liquor. We just walked away.

  8. @ Swatantra, I am sure it must be an amazing business model, as you see so many of them on each signal...thanks :)

    @ SG, thank you for your comments...I have also seen so many such incidences...when I was in sydenham college, that time post 6 in the evening we used to see so many beggars doping...most of them misuse the money they get...they ain't willing to work either... and we encourage them to be like that by giving them I mentioned in the post, there are other means to help out those in need, like you also tried to do in is not the only way out..

  9. @Neha
    I have seen guys like this. I felt pity for them but i was scared to help them cos many of my friends had worst experiences!

  10. Well i am for sure not scratching my!! Nice post Neha, something different fro what u usually write,n thanks for sharing this with us. Well most of them are fake but among them there are some who are really in need for money. I wonder how u guys believed him n gave him money these are street smart!!
    Mosquito killer tennis racket,...i know have one in my bedroom, which i should say is very helpful, btw someone said she had a poor memory...uhu uhu hahaha (GHAJNI):)!!! Well most of the products are from China so u can expect the price range.

    And yes how many "head scratchers" u bought!!
    take care

  11. There are some needy people who sell things on the signals to earn their livelihood. But some are phoney and slob. Because of these people, the needy ones suffer.

  12. we make a fool of ourselves by helping the beggars..
    there's a saying in tamil..
    "kaasu kekaravana vida kaasu podaravan dan thappanavan.."
    it means.. the bad guy is not the beggar rather its the guy donating money for the beggar..

  13. Hey there..
    Those 10 Rs stuff are sold in HYD too and yeah its always kids and women who sell them. I had one such encounter too. I lived in Chennai for quite sometime and one day i was at the beach with a friend. A kid ( may be about 6-7 yrs old) came by selling the ear bud packs and asking for alms/biryani ( YES!! he was begging for a plate of biryani!!). We offered him biscuits and milk - but he was adamant in not having them. We talked him through it and realized that all his collection from Ear Bud selling and begging go to some "bhai" at the end of the day. The kid himself gets some smallish percentage out of it. And thats how his home runs ( This was an year back and "Slumdog" wasnt released - hence the sort of thing was relatively unknown)! . Looking through his eyes i realized that we may talk a lot sitting up here, but ultimately its a question of survival for the child and his family. Its sad to see the gory compulsions of a kid. A nation will move forward only when the children/young generation get a fair chance to excel. At least for now, its a distant dream.

    Well written and a pertinent topic.

    P.S : Each time my comments are longer than the previous ones! damn!! sory abt dat!


  14. Hmmmmmmm well seeing the size of the post I just started Scratching.... thinking will i complete reading this post!!!!!!!The way you narrated made me to read the entire post..

  15. The beauty of the Indian economy lies in the churning that it offers! And the front end at which so many different elements get recorded is the activity on the street !

    Such kids sometimes hold so much promise with the entreprenuerial spirit. While you feel so sad for them and what they would end up doing without a proper education.

    There is an entire system that operates and conspires to keep them this way. And it requires a helluva lot to take them on.

    In the meanwhile, i have done a few things. Including conversing, buying them a treat, or buying what they sell..! And sowing seeds of possibility. Hoping, someday that the seeds would flower !

    Well written

  16. Neha these type of incidents ar every common, my thought is...

    I nevr give any thing to child beggars..atleast not money may be one banana or something...becuas eunless they stop getting anything, gangs kidnapping the children wont stop also.

    In beggars I always give only to either the old or handicapped, never to a young male or female whatever they may say.

  17. Head scratcher seems to be interesting!! Why would anyone go search where that instrument is to scratch one's head when you have your beautiful fingers!! err...

    On a serious note, I have written about my various encounters with beggars, street kids, transgenders, old people....endless list. Most of them cheat and they take advantage of people who are kind. You offer them to buy food, or let the kids that you would sponser his education, they would escape..

    We better be on guard

  18. This industry makes big money..but not the vendors u saw on streets..The head scratcher u were referring was initially sold for around 75 bucks...and once it started pouring into the market the rates came down drastically..

    can u imagine i know a person who had made more than 50,000 in a week with this product...

    The main concept is, bulk purchase from china and marketing it in hhighly populated places in india..!! the money sure flows for such products..!!

  19. The head scratcher looks funny... Havent seen it arnd here.. the street sellers yet to import it frm Mumbai I suppose... Let me give them a month's time...
    And I too dont hesitate to give money to those who seem needy... I jus think like Oh.. How much money do i waste everyday??? SO.. if this is gonna make a difference to someone's life, I ll go without my chocolates today( or watever)...
    Jus last saturday, I gave ten bucks to an old man... he looked so weak.. with wobbly legs... He blessed me as I gave him the money.. Later, when i went out, I spotted him jus around the corner, gettin a lottery ticket with the money I gave him...I thought I d bought him a meal with my tenner...
    N its true tht there is no way u can distinguish between the really needy n the hypocrites who make a fool of others n live happily without doing any work.. on other's hard earned money...

  20. Well, whatever you've said is not so rare a thing, but hats-off to your narrative skills. Uncluttered and crisp. Splendid way of writing! :-)

  21. That was a very good post neha..But somehow,my herat doesn't melty at these scenes..I have been trying to figure out what makes me turn a blind eye,but I eventually end up doing it.there was this incident when a man,who was on crutches came at the signal in Madras,I gave him some money seeing his plight and ten minutes later,I saw the same guy happily walking about without any deformity to his leg..

    There's a big industry which thrives in this and takes a lot outta those poor hapless people.. :) Just a mention though I do appreciate the human side of this world.. :)

    am blogrolling ya.. :)


  22. Nice post, you observe things not only from the lawyer side but also from a journalist's eyes. When I travelled from Kerala to Delhi, two years back, I too had came across at one station at a boy selling Davinci code. I paid what he asked for it, even though my fellow traveller, who is a native of Delhi tried to prevent me from doing it.

  23. the head scratcher..and I believe there is a beggar mafia..and these get used to not working

  24. @ Shruti, good you have stopped doing that...but as i have been repeating in my comments, it is better to help them out in other ways...thank u for your comments :)

    @ Nazish, I am glad that you liked the post...yeah, it is different from what i usually write, and I promise you one thing that in future also you will see a post or two completely different from what I write...we paid him as we did not want him to miss his school for any reason whatsoever...but yeah, we learnt from our mistakes too..

    this poor memory has been a new development in my already complex system, so I guess it will be absorbed as well like every other thing..I don't have any head nails work better :))

  25. @ Asit Dhal, I agree with you...the people in need suffer because of the other fake ones..

    @ Vishnu, you are too made a fool of myself, but now I am more cautious...thank you for sharing that wonderful saying..

  26. @ SM, thank you very much...I am glad you liked it...

    @ Rammy, buddy don't be sorry about it...I love long makes my post look so please keep posting long ones...thank you for sharing your are right when you say that a nation will move forward only when the children/young generation get a fair chance to excel, but we have to start that somewhere right by spreading more awareness about the importance of education..

  27. @ Sandeep, welcome here...I am glad that you liked it and read the whole post too...keep visiting..:)

    @ Kavi, thank you for your wonderful comments and sharing wonderful means of helping thm...I have started doing this slowly...I do go and meet them and try to make them realise the importance of educations...I am sure the seeds you are sowing will surely blossom...amen..:)

  28. @ Antarman, that is indeed a very useful input...the help should always be given in kind or in form of knowledge or by spending time with them...

    @ Insignia, you hit the nail on the head...but i guess guys would need those head scratchers as they ain't bless with beautiful finger-nails ;)

    I will surely try reading your previous posts on these topics...

  29. @ vinz, I did not know the price was so high for them...I just mentioned the average price of the products being sold on signals...thank you for the information...50000 in a week? my my, that is a whooping sum...phew...thank you for sharing this buddy..

    @ Lakshmi, the head scratcher is less funny, but the funnier part is to see the people demonstrating them...poor you to have seen your chocolate money wasted behind a lottery ticket...:(

  30. @ Kartik, welcome here and thank you very much for your overwhelming made my day...keep visiting :)

    @ Nikhil, welcome a way good that you don't get fooled by these people...but, no harm in helping them in other ways too as mentioned in comments if they are ready to accept your help..:) thank you for blogrolling me..:)

  31. @ Tomz, thank you for your comments, compliments and sharing your story...I somehow do not buy books from vendors located at the station or signal as I have had bad is better to buy them from the authorised shops and let the author enjoy royalty..:)

    @ Toon India, welcome here...and lolz at beggar mafia...keep visiting :)

  32. well buy me one of these..ll start scratching them rite away :)! yu and yur narration...two big assets:)! tak care well!


  33. you are true...the mentality of beggars are now changing..they really think like why to work when they could earn without working. i was also fooled by them at signal and afterward i stopped showing any mercy towards them. Its better not to encourage begging.

  34. Well, I never thought about the guys!! Tch..tch...nowadays their hairs are lengthier than most women :-P

  35. @ HaRy, for the compliment you gave me, i will buy you not one, but 10...:) thanks..

    @ Rahul, very true, we should not encourage begging...but spread awareness about the importance of education at the same time..

    @ Insignia, so true...i am sure soon we will see men with longer finger nails is a must if you have long hair ;)

  36. I agree, Neha. But I am from a different school of thought. You get moved and you give. Then I don't fret.We can be conned.