One Glass of Water Denied

Like every other day, I was waiting for my train at Dadar station today morning when a beggar approached me and asked for 5 rupees. In a matter-of-fact tone I waved my head, said ‘no’ and moved away from him while he completed his sentence ‘5 rupaye ka nimbu pani pila do’ (Buy me a lime-water costing 5 rupees). I didn’t give it a second thought and got on the first class compartment of the train which had just come to a halt on the platform.

I looked back at the beggar. He looked young, with a little shabby clothing and a cap. He was now approaching other people with his request. At that moment I actually gave heed to what he had said and realised that he hadn’t asked for money; he had asked for water.

It had been a genuine request.

‘Never say no to anyone for water’, I remembered my mother telling me a long time ago when I was in Primary school, had gone for a class picnic and hadn’t shared my bottle of water with a friend.

Before my slow-processing-morning-mind could change its course of actions, the train started moving and gave me a good excuse not to look back at the beggar. Right at that moment I knew the thought of this guy wouldn’t go out of my head easily.
I moved a little inside the compartment to avoid the heat from the sun entering through the train doors. Thankfully the fans were working and this was not one of the old rake trains that I was in.

5 minutes later, I got down at Lower Parel station and made my way to my workplace, grabbing a vada-pao on the way. The thoughts of the beggar were washed aside as work took its place. It wasn’t until the evening that the picture of the beggar came rushing back to my head.

I had moved away from the guy without even thinking because that’s what we always do- we ignore beggars. We roll up the car windows when one approaches us at a red light. Because begging in the metros of India is one huge business. Because I have seen films like Traffic Signal. Because we do not believe that any kind of begging could be genuine. Because we have experienced or have heard of people getting duped by beggars.

But right now one thought kept haunting me. This guy had not asked for money. Money could have bought him tobacco or drugs or anything else. He had simply asked me to get him a glass of limewater that costed Rs. 5. Spending the 5 bucks wouldn’t hurt my pocket at all. Even if the beggar had asked for money and I had given it to him, it wouldn’t have done me any harm. In fact, I would have done an act of kindness (or foolishness?) and no thought would have bothered me. Most importantly, I wouldn’t be writing all this.

But I had chosen to ignore him.

And here I stood in the crowded local train on my way back home, where the fans switched off for a few seconds and I started sweating profusely in the heat, and kept thinking: Probably the guy desperately needed that one glass of water that I denied to him.

What would you have done in my situation?

PS: The state of Maharashtra, including areas in-and-around Mumbai, is one of 10 states of India, that is facing severe water crisis and drought conditions right now in the peak of summer with one-fourth of the Indian population affectedIt might not affect you directly, but do keep the thought of those people in mind who are travelling miles every single morning or paying thousands of rupees in black to private water tankers to have just enough water to drink for the day. Do not waste water- you never know when you or I might be in the dire need of a glass of water with no one to help.

Also note:  Begging in India is indeed categorised as a huge racket. It is difficult to differentiate genuine requests from ones that would dupe you. And this is why people tend to stay away from it. Stay cautious.


  1. I was reading this and constantly thinking back to all the beggars I have ignored in the past, and at the same time all those that I have fed with milk/food items on requests like these. A thought-provoking post, Antarik.

    I'm also left hoping that we'll meet someday on the Mumbai local or on the streets. I'm moving to Mumbai in another 2 months or so. :)

  2. Carry an extra bottle of water tomorrow in case you meet anyone who needs it :-)

    1. I always do. I actually tried looking for that guy at Dadar station the next day.

  3. 'Nexus' isn't a word that is easily understood. Who knows there is some sort of a pact between the nimbu-pani seller and the young beggar... you know what I mean. Moreover, if there is a 'young' guy begging, he must be asked to protect his dignity and self-respect and look for a job, not beg. No, I'm not being a harsh person... you know I am always ready to help anyone... but I do wish to see our country with people who work and not beg.

    Arvind Passey

  4. As far as water is concerned, I guess there is tap water at stations.
    Well Rs.5 definitely won't hurt our pocket but begging is definitely hurting India w.r.t. racket of beggers.
    But anyway I encourage giving food/water/clothes instead of money to the needy ones.

    1. True's just some random moments and actions that force us to think more than is required.

  5. Well, will you believe i faced a similar situation back in 2009. Only difference being that beggar was hungry. I would like to share my experience with you and how i was convinced to help him out.

    you just reminded me of that incident. Thnaks for sharing your experience Antarik.


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